Oct 01, 2023  
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

The School of Liberal Arts

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Dean of the School of Liberal Arts
  Karen L. Ryan, Ph.D.

The School of Liberal Arts at Merrimack encompasses the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, each of which includes a range of disciplines distinguished by their focus of inquiry and by their perspectives and methodologies. Liberal arts disciplines investigate the human condition for the purpose of understanding issues of self and society, with particular attention to meaning and values. Liberal arts disciplines also recognize that issues, ideas, and methods of inquiry are influenced by context, i.e. situated in time, place, culture, and take this into account in framing issues, interpreting evidence, debating significance, and forming conclusions. Consequently, curiosity, creativity, and innovation are valued, and a strong emphasis is placed on critical thinking, active reading, and writing. Attention to the history of ideas and to intellectual traditions enriches current research and debate in the liberal arts.

At Merrimack, with its Augustinian tradition, liberal arts disciplines engage students and faculty in mutual intellectual inquiry, both with one another and with the larger community. They integrate theory and practice by investigating the relationships and tensions between the two. The liberal arts are inherently interdisciplinary, valuing and drawing upon the insights and approaches of a wide variety of disciplines. The liberal arts encourage self-awareness and critical reflection as well as the ability to approach issues from multiple perspectives.

The School of Liberal Arts embodies the Catholic and Augustinian identity of Merrimack College through its dedication to the pursuit of knowledge as a community activity informed by dialogue between faith and reason. Our efforts are inspired by St. Augustine’s personal journey through knowledge to wisdom, ultimately in quest of God as perfect or divine Wisdom. We are further inspired by the Augustinian Order’s embodiment of his example in their many communities of individuals united in mind and heart in the search for Wisdom, as well as in the Order’s commitment to social justice and its long history of engagement in education. Impelled by humanity’s restless search for ultimate meaning, the liberal arts are engaged in advancing the integration of knowledge and distinguished by firm commitment to ethical values and concern for the common good.


Our mission is to cultivate a community of learning, enriched by evolving scholarship and creative activity in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts.  Programs in the liberal arts explore compelling ideas, issues, and values in order to educate students to become well-informed critical and reflective thinkers empowered to lead productive and meaningful lives in a changing world.


Our vision is to provide a distinctive and nationally recognized liberal education for all Merrimack College students and to be recognized as a community in which all are scholars, teachers, and learners who

  • engage actively in the discovery and making of knowledge;
  • cultivate superior analytic, interpretive, expressive, explanatory, and deliberative abilities;
  • infuse academic life at Merrimack with intellectual vitality; and
  • contribute, as engaged citizens, to the betterment of their communities and society.

Study of the liberal arts is at the heart of Merrimack’s curriculum. Whatever your major, you will be challenged to grow through the kind of discussion and inquiry about the human experience that the liberal arts cultivate.

Liberal Arts Degree Requirements: Liberal arts students may elect a major, a major with a minor, a double major, a joint major, or, in special cases, a self-designed interdisciplinary major. Internships and service learning projects are available for students in liberal arts. All students enrolled in a liberal arts program must complete the following requirements to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree:

  1. All liberal arts students must successfully complete the College’s general education requirements.
  2. All liberal arts students must successfully complete the requirements in place for their majors as described below in the sections devoted to the various departments.

Academic Programs. The School of Liberal Arts offers programs in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree. Students may choose from a wide variety of major and minor programs available through the departments of Communication and Media, Economics, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Religious and Theological Studies, World Languages and Cultural Studies, Visual and Performing Arts, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Several interdisciplinary majors (including International Studies, Social Justice, and Environmental Sciences and Sustainability) are also available, as are a number of interdisciplinary minors. For interdisciplinary minors, students take coursework drawn from at least two related disciplines. The interdisciplinary minors available include Catholic Studies; Cyber Security; Digital Media Production; Environmental Sciences and Sustainability; Film Studies; Italian Studies; Law, Ethics, and Society; Pre-Law; Interreligious Relations; Science and Religion; Social Justice; Visual Storytelling; and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Minor programs offered through the School of Liberal Arts are open to students in other schools. Students pursuing majors in other schools may also elect a second major in the School of Liberal Arts.

Environmental Sciences and Sustainability

Interdisciplinary Program Housed in the School of Liberal Arts


Co-Director: Steven Scherwatzky and Cynthia Carlson
Affiliated Faculty: faculty who teach in the Program are from many departments and programs that develop courses in consultation with the Environmental Sciences and Sustainability (ESS) Advisory Committee.
ESS Advisory Committee: Dr. Bryan Bannon, Dr. Cyndy Carlson, Dr. Mariko Frame, Dr. William McDowell, Dr. Michael Corcoran, Dr. Anne Gatling

Social Justice

Interdisciplinary Program Housed in the School of Liberal Arts


Director: Dr. Sandra Raponi, Associate Professor in Philosophy 

Social Justice Advisory Committee: Dr. Brittnie Aiello, Dr. Anne Flaherty, Dr. Erinn Gilson, Dr. Debra Michals, Dr. Sandra Raponi, and Dr. Luis Sáenz de Viguera Erkiaga

Social justice examines how social, political and economic structures, systems, and institutions help or hinder people’s ability to meet their basic needs. It also focuses on the protection and enhancement of human dignity and human rights. Social Justice exposes students to questions of justice, discrimination, institutionalized violence, power, and oppression. The major in Social Justice is intended for students interested in creating a more just and equitable world through creative thinking about, and practical engagement with, complex problems. Grounded in the College’s Augustinian tradition of social justice, the Social Justice program presents an interdisciplinary curriculum that combines theoretical understandings of justice with practical applications and experiential learning. Students will, thus, sharpen their skills at detecting and analyzing instances of oppression and inequality, while they develop meaningful experiences engaging with practical work.

Law, Ethics, and Society Minor

School of Liberal Arts

Faculty Advisor: Associate Professor of Philosophy Sandra Raponi

Self-Designed Minor

Interdisciplinary Program

Contact: Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, Chairs of Departments offering relevant courses

This special interdepartmental minor provides students with an opportunity to design an individualized minor that meets their particular academic interests and their professional and personal goals.

The minor consists of at least 20 credits to be completed in a minimum of five courses offered by two or more departments. Working with an academic advisor, students proposing a self- designed minor will need to craft a program proposal that articulates the internal logic and academic objectives of their specific self-designed minor.

All students proposing a self-designed minor must select a focus of study for the minor. For some, this choice may be a shared area or point of connection among two or three disciplines. Others may choose a theme or an issue approached from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students can use the self-designed minor to enrich their personal development and preparation in ways not currently available through a departmental minor.

How to Propose a Self-Designed Minor

All students are required to submit a proposed plan of study listing the specific courses that will be required to complete the minor. These courses must follow logically from a statement of educational purposes and goals.

In addition, minors require a minimum of 20 credits to be completed in a minimum of five courses. Although a minor may include more than the minimum credits and courses, it should not contain more than more than 30 credits, which is 75% of a minimal major requirement. The courses included in the minor should come from at least two departments. Students, however, may propose a minor with courses from just one department if (1) the minor is not offered by the department and they can take enough courses to fulfill the proposed minor (e.g., a Photography minor within Visual and Performing Arts) and (2) the proposed self-designed requirements does not simply replicate an existing minor, i.e., it cannot be an alternative version of an existing minor. At least half of the courses in a self-designed minor must be considered to be beyond the introductory level, and the proposal also must identify a brief name for the minor.

Since the proposal must be approved by the departments that offer the courses included in the minor and the dean, the final page of the proposal should include approval lines for the chairs of those departments and the dean to sign. The advisor, the relevant department chairs, and the dean can provide assistance and advice as the proposal is developed.

When all of these approvals have been obtained, a copy of the proposal should be submitted to the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, and the original signed proposal should be submitted to the Registrar. When the Registrar accepts the proposal, students can proceed to completing their designated courses and accomplishing their goals.

Proposals for self-designed interdepartmental minors should be developed before the end of the Junior year. A proposal submitted to the Registrar’s office in a student’s final semester may not be accepted.

Proposal Template

In summary, proposals for self-designed interdepartmental minors should include the following elements:

  • Title including the name of the proposed minor (Example: “Proposal for a Self-Designed Minor in Values and Community Service”);
  • Student’s name;
  • Identification of the student’s educational purposes and goals and/or professional and personal goals that the proposed minor is designed to serve;
  • List of the specific courses to be completed for the minor, with their relationship to the goals explained;
  • Minimum of 20 credits (and a maximum of 30 credits) to be completed in a minimum of five courses;
  • Courses must come from at least two departments, except as noted above, and at least half of the courses must be considered to be beyond the introductory level;
  • Approvals page with spaces for the signatures of the chairs of the departments offering the courses in the minor and the dean.


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