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The Awesome Power of Learning

Why choose a liberal arts education? You could point to the fact that the liberal arts give students the chance to read great literature, sharpen their writing skills, or dive into history. All of these things would be true. But at Oakcrest, we know that a liberal arts education is so much more— it has tremendous power that goes far beyond pure academics. It fosters intellectual integrity.

It forms our young women into leaders of characterwith a desire to serve others and share beauty through creativity. It is a creativity born out of the courage to stay the course through inspiration, design, and achievement. The liberal arts create an environment of freedom and diversity rooted in truth where each girl engages with different world views and cultures. At the end of the day, the liberal arts education is grounded in virtus et veritas—truth and virtue. These two pillars of the liberal arts are the ends towards which the Oakcrest student strives. Together they make an education that forms the whole person, body mind, and soul.
 
We want our students to be women of intellectual integrity. This requires humility, a sense of wonder, an openness to reality, and the courage to uphold the truth. It also requires a desire to learn, to be a student of life and its complexities. At Oakcrest, we don’t simply give answers to our students; instead, we teach the girls to find them. Master English Teacher Lisa Kenna explains it this way: “Oakcrest provides the journey and the guides that can transform the hearts and minds of young women.” She continues by noting that a liberal arts education instills humility in the student: “This is the process of a liberal arts education. Students learn to turn away from the shadows, their opinions, and turn toward the sun, the truth. Humans are created for this pursuit of truth, a life long journey of discovery.” An Oakcrest student is undaunted in looking for answers in unexpected places, and she searches for connections between thinkers and across disciplines. She compares ideas, makes honest judgments, and welcomes conversations with those who contest her point of view. She learns how precious the truth is and how carefully it must be defended, even when it is uncomfortable to do so. The truth is objective—like an anchor that plumbs the depths of the ocean and once grounded holds the ship steady through calm days and stormy nights. Our students aren’t afraid of the truth, and they courageously stand by it.
 
No education is complete unless it helps the student grow in the moral life. At Oakcrest, we believe that a liberal arts education should foster leadership founded on character. It allows young women to recognize and take up their awesome role as trustees of humanity. This requires a heart that looks outward, ready to serve and share knowledge and the gifts one has received with others. “Promoting service to others is essential because service is a reality check,” says Student Life Coordinator Holly Salls. “Service nurtures a vision of life that embraces learning in whatever a student experiences.
 
"Service is essential to growing in a great vision of life, and is a key component of a life that can overcome selfishness and bring goodness to the world.” That’s why at Oakcrest, service is a     vital component of each girl’s education. Every student commits to fulfilling service hours during the school year. The entire Oakcrest community participates in All-School Service Day in the fall. And Oakcrest girls are always coming up with new ways to be servant-leaders. Just this year, the Service Initiative Program, comprised of fourteen student service coordinators, organized and managed twelve different monthly service opportunities in the local community. At Oakcrest, the liberal arts education strives to combine this high sense of service with freedom—the freedom to think wisely.

 
Creativity, too, is an essential element in this education. In line with the school’s mission of encouraging individual development of the whole person, the visual and performing arts are highly valued at Oakcrest. They are an integral part of the students’ education, essential to the fostering of academic excellence, character development, and cultural awareness. Visual and performing arts courses foster creative thinking, experimentation, and development of a sensitive appreciation and respect for the ideas and efforts of others. In a very practical way, creative acts help the student broaden her knowledge beyond her familiar scope, and reach out beyond herself to strive for greatness. The theater program, for example, gives both Middle and Upper School students the chance to step out of their comfort zones from acting, singing, and dancing to building sets, helping with costumes, and much more. Whether it’s the choreography of a dance number or the composition of a set design, Oakcrest students collaborate and develop art that leads others to the truth of the world as a whole.
 
Teachers and students at Oakcrest also work together to form a culture of freedom and diversity informed by truth. Each Oakcrest student takes ownership of her learning and personal growth. She becomes a young woman with deep self-knowledge, self-respect, and appreciation for her own beauty and dignity. Because she first knows this in herself, she can know and celebrate it in others. Students here learn to respect and value the diverse ways that humanity has found to express truth, beauty, and goodness. As Lisa Kenna puts it, the liberal arts education “is a universal education encompassing all cultures and time periods addressing questions about what it means to be human.” Each girl, no matter her religion, race or cultural identity, can joyfully participate in this culture and has something to bring to the table. The Oakcrest student recognizes the depth and dignity of each person, no matter how different from herself. She creates bonds with people of different backgrounds to work for the common good.
 
In addition, this education is also the most practical. The liberal arts student learns how to learn, so she is equipped to take on any job. She is highly adept at communication, creative thinking, asking intelligent questions and searching for new ways to answer them. She’s able adapt to many different types of work. These are essential skills that have not lost their value even with the rise of STEM careers. With the rise of automated and highly specialized jobs, those who can think outside the box and challenge the status quo are highly valued.1 Our girls are sought out by employers for their education because they are ready and willing to apply their minds to anything.
 
By the time she receives her diploma, the Oakcrest girl knows who she is and what she believes. Shaped by the intellectual and moral formation that her liberal arts education has given her, she is truly ready to change the world.
 
 
1.Christine Henseler,“Liberal Arts Is the Foundation for Professional Success in the 21st Century,” Huffington Post,
September 18, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/liberal-arts-is-the-foundation-for-professional success_us_5996d9a7e4b03b5e472cee9d.
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