Rethinking Success

From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century

Relevant Articles

“Career Services” Must Die
Andy Chan, vice president of personal and career development at Wake Forest University, delivers a TEDx talk calling for the death of “career services.” After all, if the world of work has fundamentally changed, shouldn’t the career preparation of today’s students be transformed as well?

Why Liberal Arts Matter
Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, explores “Why Liberal Arts Matter.” Rather than pit the sciences versus the arts and humanities, Roth argues, “a pragmatic, broadly based education that encourages bold inquiry and regular self-reflection recognizes the increasingly porous borders among disciplines and departments.”

In Tough Times, the Humanities Must Justify Their Worth
Patricia Cohen, writing for the New York Times, explores the idea that in tough economic times such as these, the humanities must justify their worth to administrators, policy makers, students and their parents. Are the humanities becoming, as they once were, a luxury afforded only to the wealthy?

The Winner: A Liberal Education
Sean Decatur, dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Oberlin College, and member of the board of trustees of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, reflects on the findings of the book Academically Adrift, which indicates that students who take traditional liberal arts and science courses fare better in terms of the increase in skills measured by the Collegiate Learning Assessment than students who take undergraduate course in more pre-professional fields.

An Education Debate for the Books
Using the experience of St. John’s College and its Great Books curriculum as an exemplar, the Washington Post looks at the impact of the economic downturn on admissions to private liberal arts schools. Applications at St. John’s were down to 400 from 460.

The Humanities Are More Important
In this op-ed piece Matthew Pratt Guterl, the Rudy Professor of American Studies and History, and chair of American Studies, at Indiana University at Bloomington, questions, “Is it time to kill the liberal arts degree? Is it right to ponder the rhythms of Shakespeare, or fritter away a semester thinking about the tones of El Greco, when the information superhighway needs further construction?” Guterl argues that we need the humanities now more than ever, and for one simple reason: it is what we do best in this country.

Finished College. Now What?
In this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, columnist Kathryn Masterson outlines Wake Forest University’s strategic decision to re-imagine its career development program for all undergraduate students. According to Vice President of Personal and Career Development Andy Chan, universities need to expose students to career paths that align with their personal beliefs and interests earlier on in their collegiate experience.

Is It Time to Kill the Liberal Arts Degree?
Kim Brooks, a graduate of the University of Virginia, questions “Why do even the best colleges fail so often at preparing kids for the world?” Brooks uses her own experience post-graduation (and that of several of her friends) to explore whether and how we are preparing students for employment post-college and to wonder if there might be a better model.

Looking Beyond a Paycheck
In this guest column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch writes that recent graduates who once felt invincible are now questioning whether the time and effort they’ve put into their careers will produce the returns they expected. He asks, “have universities prepared graduates for the soul-searching that follows failure?”

The Liberal Arts Are Work- Force Development
This piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that 2-year colleges are among the country’s leading providers of liberal arts education. About half of all freshmen and sophomores are enrolled at the nation’s 1,300 two-year colleges, and many of those students transfer to four-year institutions. A large percentage of community-college students enter the work force after earning two-year degrees or certificates. As such, these institutions not only provide the liberal arts foundation to many students at four-year schools, they are also leading engines of workforce development.

Making College Relevant
The New York Times examines recent moves by several institutions to make their core curriculum more “relevant,” eliminating some subjects and adding emphasis to others. At the same time, these same institutions are lamenting the drive to specialize in a certain field too early. The article also cites a recent study by the AAC&U that found that employers are also wary of these trends, wanting instead for colleges and universities to focus on developing students’ abilities to communicate, think critically, and innovate.

College Learning for the New Global Century: A Report from the National Leadership Council for Liberal Education & America’s Promise
Report from the ten year academic initiative which began in 2005, “Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP): Excellence for Everyone as a Nation Goes to College.” Based on input from educators and employers, concludes liberal education is needed more now than ever. Includes sections such as: “Liberal Education and American Capability,” “Narrow Learning is Not Enough,” “Fulfilling the Promise of College in the Twenty-first Century,” and “Liberal Education and America’s Promise.”

Renewing the Wellsprings of Responsibility
In his Keynote Address at the Vocation in Undergaduate Education Conference, President Hatch discusses the importance of vocational discernment: enabling students to find the deeper meaning in what they plan to do. He argues that students today need more fundamental advice about choosing a profession. Students should be asking: “What are my gifts and talents and my passions and commitments? How do they square with a full spectrum of professional opportunities?”

Carnegie Study Calls For Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education
Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession is the result of a recent study conducted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The authors call for a more integrative approach: “how to reconfigure business preparation overall in order to develop students’ abilities to integrate business knowledge and skills with a broad understanding of the world and our times so as to be able to participate in the larger social world, as business professionals but also as citizens and as persons.”

Live and Learn
Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand explores the question of the purpose and value of a college education. Examining the history of higher education in the 20th century, Menand proposes three theories: selection, inclusion, or vocational credentialing. No matter which theory you subscribe to, the system of higher education may only appear to be working; are students actually learning anything in the process?

The Broccoli of Higher Ed
Daniel Everett, writing in Inside Higher Ed, argues that, rather than being in crisis, the humanities can be seen as having a chronic illness. So far, Everett notes, the response to this situation has been rather like parents telling their kids to eat broccoli because “it’s good for you”: a valid argument, but not one that is likely to sway a lot of opinions.

Bringing Career Planning into Liberal Arts Classrooms
Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch argues that colleges are not doing enough to prepare students for an anxiety-inducing job market. Hatch asserts that as a result, there is increasing skepticism about the true value of college. The debate over higher education, however, is about far more than the return-on-investment for a degree.

Careers and the College Grad: What’s a Liberal Education Got To Do With It?
Career and Organizational Strategy Consultant Sheila Curran writes in this 2006 paper that colleges and universities will increasingly view the careers office as a strategic partner in attracting students, leading to increased visibility and funding. However, she argues that  it is worth evaluating whether we think the emphasis on pre-professionalism is a good idea, particularly in a predominantly liberal arts institution. This paper explores the role of a top college or university in preparing its graduates for the future, and issues that must be addressed by those responsible for the academic program and careers offices.

Are Elite Colleges Worth It?
Author Pamela Haag, herself a graduate of Swarthmore, explores the question of “Are Elite Colleges Worth It?” in this recent essay in The Chronicle Review. Is the social and cultural capital one might receive worth the hefty tuition cost, not to mention the stress induced by the selective application process? And, are those benefits more than what one might receive from a “less elite” institution?

First Lady Backs Liberal Arts
First Lady Michelle Obama extols the virtues of a liberal arts education while speaking at a mentoring event at Georgetown University.

Close the Gap Between the Liberal Arts and Career Services
Katharine Brooks, director of liberal-arts career services at the University of Texas at Austin, challenges colleges and universities to bridge the gap between the liberal arts classroom and career related resources.

Why Science Majors Change Their Minds
This article from the New York Times speaks to why strong high school science students are not majoring in science in college and/or not choosing science-related careers. Author Christopher Drew provides data and experiences that reinforce the message that colleges and universities need to re-think the ultimate objectives of a college education and take account of the actual decisions that students are making based on their experiences, perceptions and range of choices.

The Dwindling Power of a College Degree
Author Adam Davidson asserts that one of the greatest changes in American history is that a college degree is no longer the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s, less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college, and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from nonelite schools.  Davidson argues that a bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability, although it is still a prerequisite for a decent salary.

Rick Scott Wants to Shift University Funding Away from Some Degrees
The Herald Tribune explores Rick Scott’s latest changes to his legislative agenda: shifting funding to degrees that have the best job prospects, weeding out unproductive professors and rethinking the system that offers faculty job security.

Employers Say College Graduates Lack Job Skills
According to a study presented by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, more than half of 1,000 employers said finding qualified applicants is difficult, and just under half thought students should receive specific workplace training rather than a more broad-based education. On all hiring criteria included in the survey, such as adaptability and critical thinking, applicants performed below employers’ expectations.

In Defense of a Liberal Education
Washington Post education reporter Daniel deVise introduces guest columnist Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College. Mr. Nelson argues that the best preparation for the workforce of tomorrow, for the jobs that have yet to be created, is a liberal education. He cites a national survey from the Annapolis Group, a consortium of 130 independent liberal arts colleges. The survey found that 60 percent of liberal arts college graduates said they felt “better prepared” for life after college than students who attended other colleges, compared to 34 percent who attended public flagship universities.

Peter Thiel:We’re in a Bubble and It’s Not the Internet. It’s Higher Education.
Reporter Sarah Lacey recounts PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s assertion that the housing bubble has been taken over by the higher education bubble. Like the housing bubble, the education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Thiel argues that it is  fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on  something that is by definition exclusionary. Thiel’s solution lies in creating alternative paths for college graduates, including his “20 Under 20” program in which Thiel will pick twenty of the brightest students he can find and pay them $100,000 over two years to leave school and start a company instead.

A Liberal Education: Preparation for Career Success
Former Proctor and Gamble Chairman A.G Lafley argues that a liberal arts education is the best foundation for a successful career. As a former CEO with thirty years of management experience at a Fortune 50 firm, Lafley asserts that the candidates who were the most attractive manager prospects were those with a well-exercised mind, leadership potential, and the passion to make a difference. While he acknowledges that these success factors can be cultivated in many ways, he states that all of the following are best developed by taking courses in the liberal arts and sciences. Lafley’s formula for businesses trying to compete in today’s economy is simple: hire employees with the mental agility, leadership and passion to navigate constant change — in other words, hire those who are liberally educated.

The Twin Elements of Learning: Knowledge and Judgment
In Volume 96 of Liberal Education, author Willliam M. Sullivan discusses The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Bringing Theory to Practice project, conceived and led by Don Harward. This project articulates a vision of liberal education that can reclaim the practice of teaching and learning in the academy: “Bringing Theory to Practice specifies the general aim of enabling students to make sense of the world and take up a responsible place in it by singling out three interrelated purposes that need new emphasis. The first is the epistemic, the concern with knowledge; the second is eudemonic, students’ development as persons as well as minds; and the third, civic purpose, addresses the dimension of engagement with larger values and responsible participation in the life of our times.”

Promoting Liberal Arts Education
Fletcher Kittridge, founder and CEO of telecommunications company GWI Inc. states, “The liberal arts education was designed as an American invention to educate the leaders of the world.” A graduate of Colby College, he currently supports the efforts of the University of Maine at Farmington.

Re-envisioning Business Programs in Liberal Arts Worlds
In 2006, Southwestern University held a three day summit to explore what undergraduate business education in liberal arts institutions could and should look like. This is the report from the summit.

Liberal Education in an Interdependent World
Al Gini, Professor of Business Ethics in the School of Business Administration at Loyola University in Chicago, presented this keynote address at the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) 93rd Annual Conference in 2008. He addresses the question of whether or not liberal education brings value to the workplace. He answers the question affirmatively.

Can the Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship Work Together?
Assistant professor of sociology at Babson College, Mary Godwin, explores the question, “Can the liberal arts and entrepreneurship work together?” She looks at the Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts program at Wake Forest University.

Change is Good
Thomas C. Galligan, Jr., President of Colby-Sawyer College, discusses his career move from legal education to President of a liberal arts college: “I’ve always thought a great legal education should be the culmination of a great liberal arts education.”

In Defense of a Liberal Arts Education
Jill Tiefenthaler, President of Colorado College, responds to Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott’s statement regarding the need for college degrees that lead directly to jobs. Tiefenthaler addresses the value of a liberal arts education.

The Effects of Liberal Arts Experiences on Liberal Arts Outcomes
In this Research in Higher Education article (2008), Seifert et al used data to find that “liberal arts experiences had a positive effect on four of six liberal arts outcomes, including intercultural effectiveness, inclination to inquire and lifelong learning, well-being, and leadership.

7 Major Misperceptions About the Liberal Arts
Goucher College president Sanford J. Ungar addresses seven mis-perceptions regarding liberal-arts education including topics such as the perception of a liberal-arts education as a luxury affordable only for the elite. He also discusses the desires of employers to hire people with liberal arts backgrounds.

What can I do with my Liberal Arts Degree?
The U.S. Government periodical Occupational Outlook Quarterly (Winter 2007-2008) includes an article titled, “What Can I Do with My Liberal Arts Degree?” The authors states, “the skills employers say they want most in a candidate, such as communication and critical thinking, are precisely those for which liberal arts students are known.”

Why Choose the Liberal Arts?
“In a world where the value of a liberal arts education is no longer taken for granted, Mark William Roche lucidly and passionately argues for its essential importance.” Roche, Mark William. Why Choose the Liberal Arts? Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 2010.

Liberal Arts Colleges and Liberal Arts Education: New Evidence on Impacts
Paper presented at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Philadelphia, PA. Provides statistical analysis from longitudinal studies. Pascarella, Ernest T. Liberal Arts Colleges and Liberal Arts Education: New Evidence on Impacts. San Francisco: Wiley, 2005. ASHE Higher Education Report 31.3.

Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities
“Celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education.” Nussbaum, Martha C. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2010.

Liberal Education and the Corporation: The Hiring and Advancement of College Graduates
Useem’s book “focuses on the corporate career paths of college graduates and on the comparative advantages of liberal arts, business, and engineering degrees, providing data and interpretations essential for policy discussions of curricula reform and corporate management development.” Useem, Michael. Liberal Education and the Corporation: The Hiring and Advancement of College Graduates. New York: Transaction, 1989.

Liberal Education and America’s Promise
Launched in 2005, “Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) is a national initiative that champions the importance of a twenty-first-century liberal education—for individual students and for a nation dependent on economic creativity and democratic vitality.” Sponsored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, this site offers numerous resources under its Publications link.

College Learning for the New Global Century
“This report identifies the essential aims, learning outcomes, and guiding principles for a 21st century college education. It is based on extensive input both from educators and employers and responds to the new global challenges today’s students face.”

How Not to Defend Liberal Arts Colleges
Robert Shoenberg, senior fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, states that the terms “liberal education” and “liberal arts” are not synonymous. He refutes the idea that liberal education only happens in liberal arts institutions.

How Art History Majors Power the US Economy
In the following article from Bloomberg, author Virginia Postrel poses several key arguments defending the importance of the liberal arts degree, not limited to: the diversity and dynamism of the economy, vocational overflow, overall lack of job security, and the value of learning to learn.

Liberal arts education lends an edge in down economy
USA Today columnist
Mary Beth Marklein shares the latest outcomes from a recent study on college graduates. The Social Science Research Council reports that  “students who had mastered the ability to think critically, reason analytically and write effectively by their senior year were: three times less likely to be unemployed than those who hadn’t, half as likely to be living with their parents, and far less likely to have amassed credit card debt.”