A Liberal Arts Tradition

“The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.” — Albert Einstein

Queens College was founded in 1937 as “The People’s College”, but as part of the City University of New York,  its roots can be traced back to 1847 with the founding of the Free Academy. It’s mission then, as it is now, was to “educate the whole people”. The Free Academy later became City College, and together with its branches Hunter College, Brooklyn College and Queens College, would form the senior colleges of the City University of New York. When Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller signed CUNY into state Legislature, he declared education was democracy’s “lifeblood”.

Indeed, the liberal arts began as social distinction and an ideal – subjects of study one would master in order to take part in civic life as a free citizen. It may be hard to imagine that there was a time when many people were not free citizens, but in antiquity, participating in a well-educated democracy was a privilege. Today, however, the liberal arts refers to the tradition of studying ideas new and old across the disciplines, gaining perspectives and knowledge that broaden one’s view of the world and training the mind to think critically, creatively, and independently.

Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and science programs. Our goals for providing students an education in the liberal arts have endured since the college was founded in 1937. A broad range of liberal arts courses allows students to better understand themselves and the world around them, while developing the capacities for critical inquiry, innovation, and judgement – preparing students for their future beyond Queens College, wherever it may lead them.

Timeline of Events
  • 1664 – New Netherlands becomes New York
  • 1666 – English Governor Richard Nicholls affirms the Dutch colonial village of Flushing (Dutch: Vlissingen) on behalf of the British Crown, Charles II.
  • 1683 – Queens County is named for Charles’s II Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza.
  • 1684 – Matinecock Indians deed land to white freeholders of Flushing in exchange for one axe or the equivalent for each fifty acres, reserving only the right to cut bulrushes.
  • 1837 – Village of Flushing is incorporated into the United States of America.
  • 1847 – The Free Academy is established – a free institution of higher learning.
  • 1935 – Charles S. Colden, Queens County Judge, proposes creating a city college on the site that used to be the New York Parental School for Boys.
  • 1936 – Major LaGuardia agrees to establish Queens College
  • 1937 – Board of Higher Education creates Queens College, “a college of liberal arts and sciences,” and elects Dr. Paul Klapper, Dean of the School of Education at City College, as its President
Chronology of General Education at Queens College
The Prescribed Program 1937-1972 35 years 61 credits
“Freedom of choice” 1972-1976 4 years N/A
Distributional Requirements 1976-1981 5 years 24 credits
Liberal Arts and Sciences Area Requirements (LASAR) 1981-2009 28 years 31-43 credits
Perspectives on the Liberal Arts and Sciences (PLAS) 2009-2013 4 years 30-69 credits
CUNY Pathways at Queens College 2013+ Ongoing 42 credits
The Process from LASAR to PLAS to CUNY Pathways
  • 2003: President Muyskens calls for a Task Force on General education to reform LASAR – a curriculum that was over a quarter century old.
  • 2004: The Task Force submits a final report titled, “Toward a Reorganization of General Education at Queens College”, along with recommendations.
  • 2005: The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee of the Academic Senate submits “A Plan for Curriculum Administration” establishing CTL: Center for Teaching and Learning, for administrative support.
  • 2006: UCC proposes PLAS to replace LASAR in a report titled, “A Report of the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Proposal 2: Area Requirements”
  • 2007: A new sub-committee of UCC is formed, The General Education Advising Committee (GEAC), to oversee the development and approval of PLAS courses.
  • 2009: The Office of General Education is created and appointed an academic Dean as a member of the Provost’s staff to supervise and coordinate general education implementation. PLAS launches in the fall semester.
  • 2011:
    • June 27th: Board of Trustees approves the Pathways project: “On June 27, 2011, the CUNY Board of Trustees passed the Resolution on Creating an Efficient Transfer System, which specified that general education at CUNY would consist of a 30-credit Common Core for all campuses across the University and a 12-credit College Option for senior colleges.  The Chancellor charged the Pathways Task Force with making a recommendation on the contours of the 30-credit Common Core structure.” – CUNY Academic News
    • November 1st: Draft Recommendation made by the Steering Committee of the Pathways Task Force.
    • November 15th: President Muyskens issues a response to the Pathways Steering Committee rejecting the November 1stdraft and offering a revised proposal.
    • December 1st: Final Recommendation made by the Pathways Task force.
  • 2012: QC Pathways Implementation Plan announced by the Office of General Education, April 1st.
  • 2013:
    • January 1st: CUNY Common Core Course Review Committee announced to “facilitate the expeditious review and approval of all courses proposed for the Common Core” – Academic news. In April the committee is divided into three subcommittees: [MQR, LPS, SW], [WC, US], and [EC, CE, IS].
    • June 5th: “All CUNY college campuses have had all Pathways general education courses needed for the fall – approx. 2,000 courses in total – approved by the Board of Trustees… 95 percent of undergraduate degree programs have been aligned with Pathways requirements… total number of enrollments in Pathways courses for fall 2013 is now close to 20,000… Extensive Pathways training of advisors is ongoing…” – Alexandra Logue, University Provost.
    • August 28th: Fall 2013 Academic semester under Pathways begins.



Students: Contact Academic Advising to discuss general education requirements.

Faculty: Contact Associate Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs, Maria Delongoria.