Message from Professor Noam Reisner, Academic Head of the Program
To all prospective and active students, welcome. It gives me great pleasure to share with you in this space my thoughts on the value and importance of a liberal arts degree more generally, and in our program specifically. We often hear from prospective students and their parents legitimate questions about the benefits of our program and a humanities degree, especially in today’s increasingly competitive, goal-oriented global market. The answers to these questions are varied and some might sound like little more than clichés about the ennobling aspects of the humanities and their ability to foster in students liberal values. Other answers are more pragmatic and might point, quite rightly, to the growing appreciation in today’s corporate environment for the value that liberal arts graduates bring to a given working environment, whether in their ability to write well and think critically, or in their ability to bring to bear in their interactions with others an ethically conscious social awareness. The truth of the matter, however, is that a liberal arts degree is as vital as ever, especially in today’s world of social media, contested truths, and widespread cultural anxiety, not because of the values such a program might inculcate in its students as abstract ideals, but because of the sort of people its students aspire to become. It is vital because unlike most other degrees it offers our students important grounding as individuals able to think for themselves and take responsibility for their subjective desire going into the world.
The term “liberal arts” was first coined by the ancient Romans in referring to the study of rhetoric, philosophy and history which defined the proper upbringing of Roman citizens deemed “free” (liber). While initially this meant that such studies were the prerogative of the social elite, with the rise of humanism it increasingly came to mean that the values promoted in studying our collective cultural inheritance in the arts frees us from various forms of oppression and slavery in becoming better, more socially responsible human beings. The humanities allow us to better understand and explain our past and present actions within a wider intellectual, social and historical context, but primarily they foster in us the ability to take subjective responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and actions in how they shape the world around us. In this wider sense, a degree in the liberal arts offers both a vocation as well as the grounds for any number of professions. Many degrees can teach you a profession, but only a degree in the liberal arts can ground any possible professional career in the vocational aspects which are the basis of all culture and enterprise, and of what it means to be human in today’s global world with all of its geopolitical, economic, and ecological challenges. It is precisely through the unique variety and breadth of learning that our Program of Study offers that the confluence of a professional outlook within a vocational mindset becomes possible.
And what better place to do this than at Tel Aviv, at once a cosmopolitan hub of modern culture and high-tech innovation as well as the nexus of the region’s and the world’s most storied histories, bridging east and west, old and new. With students from over 30 different countries, Tel Aviv University’s International BA in Liberal Arts is uniquely placed to offer our students a truly global and especially varied and enriching learning experience. We offer studies in multiple tracks, including philosophy, literature, history, politics, psychology, culture, communications, digital studies, and entrepreneurship with numerous possible combinations tailored for each student’s individual needs and goals. It is therefore with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I recommend our program to all prospective students and wish our incoming students and all those students already enjoying all our program has to offer a vibrant, enriching, and productive academic year. May we all find the wisdom and the courage to make most of our studies, as we forge together new paths into a brighter future for us as individuals and as members of a global community. May we find ways to celebrate our unity by giving dignity to our diversity.