College of Arts and Sciences

Alton named director of Liberal Arts and Sciences programs at Western Illinois University

July 14, 2009

Department of Biological Sciences associate professor Althea K. Alton has been named director of the Liberal Arts and Sciences program in the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Illinois University. Her duties will include working with faculty and students on both the university’s campuses in Macomb and the Quad Cities. She was previously the coordinator for the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree program in the college.

Alton’s tenure at WIU started in 1988 as an assistant professor. She served as the assistant director for the WIU Honors Program (now Illinois Centennial Honors College) from 1995-1997 and then as its acting director during the summer of 1997. She previously held posts at the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, Indiana University, the National Science Technology Authority of the Philippines, and the University of the Philippines – Los Banos.

Alton earned her PhD in Biology with a concentration in Developmental Genetics at Cornell University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in 1982. She also was awarded an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Institute and another postdoctoral fellowship with the Indiana Corporation for Science and Technology at Indiana University.

“The College of Arts and Sciences appreciates Dr. Alton’s enthusiasm and expertise in promoting interdisciplinary studies,” said College of Arts and Sciences interim dean Susan Martinelli-Fernandez. “Her background working on the baccalaureate LAS program and long history of academic excellence will serve our students on the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses well.”

The Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) programs are flexible and focused degrees emphasizing disciplinary concentration in interdisciplinary contexts. Both baccalaureate and graduate degrees are offered at both the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses of WIU. These versatile degrees draw on the rich resources and faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Sciences involves focused study in the traditional areas of liberal education (Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences/Mathematics). The degree can be tailored to meet students’ academic needs and interests. The Bachelor of LAS equips students with the transferable skills most valued by employers; it is also excellent preparation for graduate education. The degree is especially attractive to transfer students; in most cases, students entering the LAS program with an Associate in Arts or an Associate in Science degree should be able to complete the program within four semesters.

The Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences is for students who need or desire advanced education but do not require a specific specialized content area. This interdisciplinary degree stresses critical thinking, comparative analysis, and highly flexible content rather than a more traditional advanced specialization in a fairly small content area. LAS is designed especially for students seeking a master’s degree as an occupational qualification and for those who wish more in-depth inquiry into the liberal arts and sciences as a step toward greater personal fulfillment. LAS promotes an advanced level of critique, analysis, and comparison; students explore the broad questions faced by human beings, as well as the specific means by which individual disciplines in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Mathematics have addressed these questions.

For more information about the LAS programs, please call Alton at 309/298-3025 or email her at