Several weeks ago I wrote a piece on the benefits of liberal arts colleges where I talked about a few aspects that help these colleges stand out as great places for undergraduate students. If you missed it, here it is:
Over the past couple weeks I have visited several colleges in Pennsylvania that fit this model: small populations, no graduate students and a focus on combining the liberal arts with pre-professional studies. In other words, these colleges are trying to teach students how to think about what they are learning from multiple perspectives. They are preparing them for a rapidly changing world where life is more of a zig-zag than it is a straight line.
Today, I want to share some examples of what students at these colleges are doing that I feel demonstrates the value of what these colleges have to offer.
At Muhlenberg College I had the pleasure of hearing from a couple students who were really doing some outstanding things in preparation for their future careers. A finance and economics double major had interned at the United Nations through the advice and mentorship of one of his professors from the international studies department and will be interning at Price Waterhouse Cooper’s this coming summer. Another student who chose Muhlenberg over Brandeis University and Boston College due to the focus on undergraduate students and more accessible faculty had interned at Covidien after his first year when most of the other interns were juniors in college.
At Franklin & Marshall College I met a student who was double majoring in economics and international studies. After her first year, she was able to work on a research project where she was analyzing economic development in emerging regions in other countries. She’s planning on studying abroad next year to get more involved in this research.
At Dickinson College art history majors are required to curate their own shows. It’s a standard they are held to so that they can demonstrate everything they’ve learned. As a result, Sotheby’s recruits on campus.
At Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, students are being encouraged to begin research in their first year with nearly 30 students in the biology department having been published in the last decade. One student I met, a rising senior pre-med major, had already completed three separate research projects related to her interests in cognitive development and was going to be spending her summer on campus in a research lab for a fourth time.
While these are just a few examples of what students are doing, I feel they represent some of the tremendous benefits at liberal arts colleges. There’s been a long-standing criticism of liberal arts colleges saying they are too focused on languages, the “soft sciences” and the arts – areas which are perceived as less desirable for employment than the traditional areas of business, engineering, nursing and accounting. Personally, I think the criticism is uninformed nonsense. The students I met at these colleges were working hard, they were having life-changing experiences, they were learning how to attack problems from multiple perspectives to produce outcomes that positively affect different people and, most importantly, they were growing and developing as learners and as people.
I’m not sure what’s not to like about that.
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