Key skills like critical thinking, creative expression and the ability to collaborate with a variety of viewpoints create strong employees and leaders.
Most college students majoring in liberal arts subjects like English, history or philosophy have grown accustomed to answering somewhat tiresome questions along the lines of, “What sort of job are you going to get with that degree?” As an increasing emphasis is placed on STEM degrees, the value of a liberal arts degree is often underestimated and even viewed as outdated — but the truth is that a liberal arts education equips students with an equally valuable (albeit different) skill set as STEM that serves them well when they enter the workforce.
Liberal arts colleges such as The Evergreen State College, located in Olympia, are committed to ensuring their students graduate with a skill set that will benefit them in the workplace. This includes key skills like critical thinking; creative expression; the ability to collaborate with people who think differently than they do; and the capacity to engage in passionate, respectful debate on the issues facing the world today.
“Our students analyze problems from different angles because they’re taking classes in many different areas and not just the sciences,” says Trevor Speller, academic dean at Evergreen. “They’re also learning social sciences and humanities and I think that helps them be more creative and innovative in problem-solving, and it also helps them understand people [who have] different perspectives and different values than their own.”
Students at liberal arts colleges are pushed to think creatively and outside the box — and we don’t need to look any further than their academic pursuits for evidence of this. For example, one key area of Emily Washines’ academic focus was Yakama culture. As her capstone project, Washines wrote, shot and produced a short video titled “Return of the Wapato,” which documented biologists’ efforts to restore a healthier eco-system to Yakama Nation.
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Nearly a decade later, Washines works as a public information specialist with Yakama Nation Fisheries and has added a number of videos (and poetry) to her repertoire — and she credits her capstone project with helping her network professionally and connect with other indigenous people from all over the world.
After a stint teaching high school world history, Stuart Ralston joined the learning design team at Apple, where his role focuses on helping school leaders and teachers integrate technology into their curricula and classrooms. Ralston found his calling after spending two months on a small island in Nicaragua as an undergrad, during which he was virtually connected with other students in the college’s “Islands” program. Ralston returned knowing that he wanted to combine his passions for teaching and technology. In his current role at Apple, his work emphasizes the importance of integrating technology into the classroom (and our lives) in a healthy, constructive manner that enriches real-world experiences rather than isolates us from them.
Liberal arts colleges also teach an invaluable, timeless skill: How to learn. The modern-day career landscape is constantly evolving, and liberal arts graduates are equipped to handle these changes because their education focuses so heavily on the rich value of learning for the sake of learning. “We tend to have a lot of students who are innovators and self-starters. They start their own businesses and I think [it’s] precisely because they have the foundation for learning on their own after this education,” Speller says.
Evergreen is a progressive, public liberal arts and sciences college located in Olympia, Washington. Learn more at evergreen.edu