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History of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts

In 1966, a fledgling school ten years old, a university in name only, became a university in fact, thanks to a gift, in 1964, of $7,500,000 by the Blakley-Braniff Foundation, which allowed the formation of the Braniff Graduate School. The first programs offered were master's degrees in Art, English, and Business Administration, and a Ph.D. in Politics and Literature. Each of these had a distinctive character setting it apart from other programs, both locally and nationally.

The program in Business Administration – now the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business – established its defining and ground-breaking principle of innovative, practice-based education, having actual businessmen teaching potential businessmen. Responding to the needs of the expanding and changing Dallas-Fort Worth area, it grew rapidly and developed its own administrative and teaching structure. Nearly 13,000 degrees have been awarded through College of Business programs.

Other early graduate programs initiated what is now the complex of offerings known as the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts. The Art Department soon added the sixty-credit M.F.A., the terminal degree for studio artists, to its initial M.A. program. It is one of only two M.F.A. studio art programs offered by Catholic institutions in the United States. It has become an influential force because of the fundamental soundness and sophistication of its program, arising from the convictions that an artist is also a craftsman who must acquire technical control of his or her medium, and that an artist's inspiration comes from an informed and particular response to his or her place in time supported by a knowledge of the history and theory of art. Studio art graduates head and staff art faculties in colleges and universities throughout the country.

To the original M.A. in English have gradually been added many other Master's degrees, including programs in American Studies, Humanities, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Theology, as well as the degrees offered by the School of Ministry that prepare lay people for work in various Church ministries. All reflect the overarching mission of the University: to revive the Western heritage of liberal education and to recover the Christian intellectual tradition. This approach, like that of the undergraduate curriculum, concerns the study not only of major authors and texts, but also of the continuity of the intellectual traditions out of which they come. In addition, graduate work in the liberal arts has a social dimension – the formation of teachers. Half of the graduate students in the Humanities program, for instance, are teachers. Present and future teachers – in public and private institutions, at all levels of instruction – are the primary focus for departments offering master's programs. To date, the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts has awarded 1500 degrees to men and women who exemplify our approach in the excellence of their educational vision. They constitute a vital resource in the University's effort to make itself better known.

Nationally, the University's most influential graduate program in the liberal arts is the one that began in 1966 as the Willmoore Kendall program in Politics and Literature. Now called the Institute of Philosophic Studies, it awards doctoral degrees in Philosophy, as well as in Politics and in Literature. From the beginning this program has been deservedly called unique. No other university offers an interdisciplinary Ph.D. with a core curriculum in which students from the different fields within the humanities participate as a group. Each semester for three years all the students in the program share one of six core courses, each devoted to pivotal texts within Western civilization. Students belong to a true, cross-disciplinary intellectual community, using insights gained from the study of each other's disciplines to deepen their knowledge of their own.

Doctoral students prepare themselves to teach in colleges and universities that have an institutional mission similar to ours – with undergraduate core or honors curricula, or interdisciplinary undergraduate studies. Our success in forming teachers of intellectual breadth, commitment and integrity has gradually increased the reputation of the program. Consequently, doctoral graduates consistently find employment at institutions throughout the country. The University awarded its 180th Ph.D. at Commencement in May 2009. Of the 38 Ph.D. students awarded degrees since 1998, one is a trustee of our university, one is employed in a think tank in Arizona, one has joined a monastic order in Italy, one is teaching at a secondary school in New England, four are either in law school or practicing law, and twenty-eight presently hold teaching positions at colleges and universities.

The offerings of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts are a continual source of renewal, not only in sending teachers into local and national arenas, but in reaffirming among the faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees a shared commitment to educational excellence, integrity, and leadership.

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