The Importance of Liberal Arts During a Pandemic

By Rachel Balzano, Programs Specialist, May 18, 2020
Rachel Balzano, Programs Specialist and Alumna of Ithaca College, reflects on how the ICC has stuck with her even after getting her degree.

I’ve technically been at the college for the past six years; my first four as a student in the English department and the past two in my current position as the Programs Specialist in the H&S Dean’s office. I’m so lucky to call Ithaca home and recently have been feeling even luckier that Ithaca College helped me grow into the burgeoning  academic that I am today. I largely attribute  this growth  to having completed the ICC. Early on I viewed/perceived the ICC as a checklist: a series of annoying general requirements I couldn't wait to be done with. Like many students, I wanted to dedicate my time to classes that truly interested me and that would advance me in my major. I suspected I would never use skills I learned in a course I was taking to satisfy a general requirement. Of course, I also never suspected having to live through a pandemic.

The ICC is not your standard liberal arts requirement- Yes; students must satisfy area competencies, but a student’s choice of  theme informs their completion of courses in four perspectives: Creative Arts, Humanities, Natural Science, and Social Sciences. I chose the identities theme and worked my way through classes I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen to take. I found myself enjoying it. I grew as a student as my horizons were expanded and as I gained insight into disciplines that  I wouldn’t have thought would interest me In our current world, I’m appreciative that I took a quantitative literacy course - an attribute to my theme-  and can now see data regarding the pandemic and understand it. My Natural Sciences course taught me about genomes, and from that knowledge, I understand the behavior of viruses and of COVID-19 better than someone with a BA in English Literature. My Social Science class has helped me understand issues and feel as though I can have productive discussions with family members.

 Like others during this time, I have been thankful that we have the humanities in times like this. I gravitate to novels, tv shows, and films in an effort to momentarily distract myself from constant anxieties associated with the pandemic. I took a film class to fulfill my Creative Arts which led me to a greater love for films and for different genres that I wouldn’t have known about before. These courses have helped shape my tastes and While I know that this pandemic isn’t going to last forever, the knowledge I gained from the ICC will come up in ways that I least expect, and I am ever so indebted for that.