Liberal education has been at the center of the academy since it first began in ancient Greece. By the middle ages, at the dawn of the university, liberal education meant the seven liberal arts as elaborated in the Trivium and the Quadrivium. All that a free mind needed to address the great questions of God, man, and nature, was contained in the study of grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. Today, liberal education seeks a still wider span of knowledge, but the concerns remain largely the same: asking the questions that need to be asked if one is to live wisely and humanely in an increasingly diverse world. In America, it also addresses the problem of how to prepare democratic citizens to be good human beings, committed to excellence of intellect as well as being morally and professionally responsible.
Here at Villanova, our understanding of liberal education is guided by the university’s Augustinian mission. Saint Augustine drew on such influences as Scripture, Cicero and the Neo-Platonists in order to introduce classical learning into the spirituality of Christianity. In Augustine we see the extraordinary union of veritas and caritas, truth and love. Liberal education pursued in this Augustinian spirit embarks on a conversation that transforms the heart as it opens the mind. It is this conversation, above all, which the Villanova Center for Liberal Education promotes among students, faculty, and the entire university community.
The mission of the Villanova Center for Liberal Education (VCLE) is to advance interdisciplinary studies in the liberal arts and sciences in such a way as to enhance the participation of all Villanova — the student body, our own Institute faculty, and faculty in other departments — in the intellectual life central to an Augustinian university. Our mission is also to sponsor conferences and workshops in the Liberal Arts inviting distinguished faculty to our campus to join in our conversations.