Liberal arts education
The liberal arts matter. Though the concept has been around for hundreds of years, a liberal arts education is more relevant than ever today. Each of our colleges commits in its own way to providing a liberal arts education. Our small class sizes and focus on faculty teaching help make it a reality.
What we mean
A liberal arts education is an approach that "empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world . . . as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest."
Here's another definition from the Annapolis Group, an association of 130 private liberal arts colleges that includes several of our institutions:
At their core, liberal arts colleges seek to develop intimate learning environments where extensive interaction between faculty and students and among students themselves fosters a community of serious discourse. Small class sizes, a primary emphasis on individualized instruction, and a faculty that is dedicated to teaching undergraduates represent the foundation of learning at these institutions. Because they are focused on the individual, the nation’s top liberal arts colleges help students understand, develop and use their own intellectual resources.
In addition, the term "liberal arts" is also used to refer to specific disciplines in the sciences, social sciences and humanities.
And why "liberal," you may ask? No, it's nothing political. Instead, it comes from the use of the word to mean "free," as in the education deemed worthy for free men.
Listen now>> Who needs an English major?
This American RadioWorks program reports on the value of a liberal arts degree on our collective well-being and our economy. In a tough economy, many college students seek the “hard skills” that will ensure job opportunities. But for others, that philosophy or history degree is the best fit and can even be a money maker.
Through a liberal arts education, you acquire skills that will enable you to thrive in a rapidly changing world, including the ability to:
- Critically analyze and synthesize information and ideas;
- Construct arguments drawing on several sources;
- Persuade, both orally and in writing;
- Understand relationships among different disciplines, ideas or historical trends;
- Be comfortable with diversity and understand how cultural and ethnic backgrounds shape perspectives;
- Think creatively and independently, and
- Exercise self-discipline and meet and exceed high expectations
Many of these abilities focus on how best to use information — gathering it, sifting through it, evaluating it, organizing it and sharing it effectively. These skills have never been more relevant.
Employers are looking for college graduates to have a wider set of skills and higher levels of learning. A recent national survey found employers expect graduates to have both broad and major-specific knowledge, along with the ability to apply their learnings in real world settings and develop their research abilities. These are all hallmarks of liberal arts education at our institutions.
Along with specific skills, employers want to hire people who are flexible and creative, notes the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's Bill Blazar. "They have to be well-rounded, curious, good problem solvers and able to handle a variety of situations. This goes to the heart of a liberal arts education."
Think beyond your major
Except for professional careers that have a very specific career path (like those in medicine, law or engineering), each major can lead to many different types of careers.
LinkedIn's alumni tool is a handy way to explore the wide range of career options that each major can result in — although you do need an account to use it and the information is based only on those who have accounts on LinkedIn.
Search for a college or university to learn more about what alumni studied and where they worked. It will draw on information from ALL LinkedIn members to generate a list of:
- where alumni work
- the types of work they do
- which cities they live in
Click on one or more of these elements to narrow the results, such as by what they studied. Or enter a keyword in the search box. Be sure to check out LinkedIn handy tip sheet.