Welcome from the Dean
Whenever students ask me whether a particular major might limit their career prospects, I like to remind them “you aren’t your major.” That is, the major they declare is what they will study. But they are not defined by their major, or eternally bound to a narrow menu of career options when they make a choice.
What we do with the knowledge and skills we acquire through any liberal arts major can take us anywhere we choose to go. To illustrate: In a recent Forbes magazine article, Haley Kim writes about a trend in the tech industry: recruiting more liberal arts graduates.
She cites the experience of Steward Butterfield, who cofounded Silicon Valley giants Flickr and Slack after graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy. When asked about how his studies prepared him for high-tech leadership positions, he had this to say:
"I learned how to write really clearly. I learned how to follow an argument all the way down, which is invaluable in running meetings. And when I studied the history of science, I learned about the ways that everyone believes something is true—like the old notion of some kind of ether in the air propagating gravitational forces—until they realized that it wasn't true."
The truth is, skills like critical thinking, creativity, and written and oral expression are just as much in demand in today’s job market as they’ve always been. I like to remind students that while planning their academic career is important, they can’t always predict where their paths will lead. In part, that’s because the road map is always changing. Purely technical jobs are likely to be among the first to be automated and may disappear from the map entirely. But if they are open to promising new directions, or new passions that awaken during their journey, CAS students in the can be confident they have the toolkit of skills to succeed and thrive.
While I believe that our liberal arts education is outstanding and offers students the pathway to fulfilling life and career success, the changing landscape of higher education, together with the changing needs of our students, require that we be more deliberate in communicating the value of the liberal arts education.
To this end, I convened a task force of faculty and staff to identify and describe the core competencies that students in the College acquire in completing their bachelor's degree, regardless of their major. Our students have always acquired these competencies through coursework, research, service learning and many co-curricular activities. The College is now dedicated to helping our students understand and successfully communicate these extraordinarily valuable skills which they will bring with them to whatever career they choose. I invite you to view the competencies.
Dean of Arts and Sciences