When Iowa State first opened its doors in 1869, it was known as the Iowa State Agricultural College, and one of its primary goals was to provide technological and practical educations, in contrast to the classical, liberal arts educations offered at many other schools. At the same time, the founders of the college wanted their school to be more than a vocational school, and they worked to strike a balance between the classical liberal arts education and the wholly practical education that was then in vogue.
As a result, instruction in the natural sciences and the liberal arts has been a part of an Iowa State education from the beginning. Many of the original faculty at Iowa State were specialists in non-technical subjects, hired because of their ability to help students to a broad- based education. These faculty taught courses in physics, chemistry, English, history, and philosophy, which were seen as service courses designed to help students become well rounded in practicing the trades they were learning in their areas.
In 1898, studies in the liberal arts and sciences were given a home in the Division of Science and Philosophy, and the Division underwent several other name changes until 1959, when the service division became a college, the College of Science and Humanities, which offered students full-fledged majors in liberal arts and scientific curricula.
Today the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which got its current name in 1990, is the largest college at the University with more than 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
In the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, students select from a wide and rich range of program options. The goal of the college is to prepare the student to enter the world beyond the
university with skills in reasoning, analysis, and communication; with an appreciation of history and culture, an understanding of the challenges of the future, and a sensitivity toward people and their environments. To achieve this goal, the college asks students to acquire depth in learning within disciplines of their own choice, by way of single or multiple major. Meaningful breadth in learning is acquired through elective courses and courses fulfilling general education requirements.
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the academic home, the foundation, for many essential learning disciplines. The college provides students with all the components of a modern liberal arts education. Students may choose to study in various fields of the physical, biological, and social sciences; in mathematical disciplines; in methods and systems of communication; and in the arts and humanities.
The flexible degree requirements in the curriculum of the Liberal Arts and Sciences permit programs of study suited to a variety of interests and goals. Students having academic interests not fully met by a departmental major may pursue a major offered by one of the College’s interdepartmental programs or may apply for a major in interdisciplinary studies. The college participates in the University Honors Program; thus, students of exceptional academic promise can develop unique and challenging programs of study. The college has three curricula: a curriculum in Liberal Arts and Sciences, leading to the bachelor of arts or the bachelor of science degree; a curriculum in music, leading to the bachelor of music degree; and a curriculum in liberal studies, leading to the bachelor of liberal studies degree.