A Liberal Arts Education at UCSB

The liberal arts have been at the heart of the university from its inception. A comprehensive liberal arts college within a great public research university, the College of Letters and Science still reflects the expectations of the ancient Greeks and Romans that citizens should be trained in philosophy, history, and rhetoric, as well as the medieval map of the liberal arts, which included grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

The University of California was created in 1868, joining together the College of California, which based its curriculum in Latin and Greek, and the “pervading influence and spirit of Christian religion,” and the state’s Agricultural, Mining and Mechanical Arts College, which the Legislature had created to promote the “intellectual, scientific, moral and agricultural improvement” of the people of California. The Santa Barbara State College became the University of California, Santa Barbara College in 1944, and a general campus of the University of California in 1958. Today, UC Santa Barbara is designated as a Research I university and is one of only 62 institutions elected to membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

The College of Letters and Science offers 80 majors and 38 minors, giving undergraduates opportunities to study theoretical physics, nanotechnology, and economics with Nobel Prize winners; learn about the remarkable ethnic diversity in our multicultural state and our global society: explore new media and understand the complexities of information technology and society; and study the cultural, artistic, literary, and intellectual traditions that have shaped our world. Internationally-recognized scholars and artists teach undergraduate and graduate students and advance their fields with innovative research, publications, and creative activity that both preserve our traditions and map new fields of study. Some 57 percent of UC Santa Barbara seniors have reported that they participated in faculty research or creative projects.

The College of Letters and Science prepares students for diverse careers while providing them with the knowledge and the skills of critical thinking, communication, and expression that will allow them to participate in society as informed and engaged citizens. We take very seriously our role as a public university. The scholarship of our faculty informs public policy and public debate about the most compelling issues of our times. We offer a wide array of public programs that every year draw thousands of people to campus for events, community forums, conferences, lectures, performances, and exhibitions. Our students have a strong tradition of community service and activism. UC Santa Barbara graduates have served in the Peace Corps at very high rates for many years. UCSB is among the top 25 large colleges and universities with alumni currently in Peace Corps posts around the world. UCSB registered the most student voters and had the highest percentage of student voters of all colleges for the 2008 presidential election.

We encourage our students to take an active role in shaping their education and take advantage of the resources of an internationally-recognized research university and the exciting intellectual and cultural communities of the campus and the Santa Barbara area. 

David Marshall
Past Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts