Sunday, January 24, 2021

Liberal arts valued in tech industry

A wall in the Flynt Commons of the Angell College Center, also known around campus as the “blue room,” displays some of Plattsburgh State’s core values and missions. An excerpt reads, “Revisions to general education will fortify the liberal arts core. New programs will better align with market demand.”

There are five ways that college degrees will change in 2016, according to an USA Today College article.

“More and more technology leaders are looking to build workforces full of creative thinkers to complement and support the coders and developers,” USA Today College reported. “What better preparation for a career in creativity, communication and critical thinking than liberal arts?”

These degrees include studies in social sciences and humanities, including majors such as language studies, literature, history, anthropology and philosophy, among countless others.

Liberal arts programs and degrees are as traditional as the higher education system itself. Most colleges were established as “training grounds” for the liberal arts, according to PSUC Career Development Center Director Julia Overton-Healy. She said liberal arts degrees provide students with a broad perspective.

She said liberal arts degrees were “renaissance degrees” because they provide students with a variety of knowledge and versatile skill sets.

PSUC Distinguished Teaching Professor of Anthropology James Armstrong considers a liberal arts education the “foundation of a good education.”

Armstrong said liberal arts programs are the “engine that pushes students” to become more involved in areas such as voting and volunteer work. He said liberal arts educations provide students with creative and ethical thinking skills, which he said they are, in turn, “good for society and civic responsibility.”

Overton-Healy also said employers today are all looking for similar qualities. Even in technology-based fields, they look for applicants with effective critical thinking, communication, writing and problem-solving skills, all of which are provided by various liberal arts degrees.

She said students may not necessarily have to choose between what intrigues them and what provides job stability. She said it is about “following what you love, and making it work with the job you have.”

She said employers are less concerned with the degree applicants hold, but more about the employee’s relevancy and skill sets.

“A liberal arts background equips a student to be a nimble thinker (and) to use multiple intelligences,” Overton-Healy said.

PSUC Philosophy Department Associate Professor and Chair Kurtis Hagen suggests the humanities programs and humanity are connected because both are concerned with “what human life is all about.”

He contrasts it with fields that are more technically and practically oriented, like sciences such as biology and physics.

“It’s not that humanity doesn’t figure in, but there’s a sense in which human issues are a step removed from those other disciplines,” Hagen said.

He also said students should not have to choose between majoring in what interests them and majoring in a secure career field. However, he said they should consider picking up a minor or second major. He said one could be a more practical or technical area of study, and the other could be in a humanities or liberal arts program.

“Most young people nowadays can reasonably expect to have multiple careers,” the philosophy department reported in its course requirements. “You have probably thought about your first career, but what are you doing to prepare for our second and third careers?”

The requirements said the program offers “the most general and widely transferable skills that are sought after regardless of one’s particular profession.”

Some of the skills mentioned include critical and creative thinking, analysis and evaluation of arguments and evidence and “grasping and wielding abstract ideas.”

Overton-Healy said liberal arts programs and degrees are useful because they help shape well-rounded students, giving them experience in multiple fields and studies.

She said as the economy shifts over time, employers will continue to seek out these well-rounded students to meet the demands of an ever-changing economic system.

Email Marissa Russo at marissa.russo@cardinalpointsonline.com

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