The Value of MY Liberal Arts Education

As I approach graduation and reflect more on my academic career, I have experienced mixed emotions with my liberal arts education and my election to study in the humanities. I sometimes feel discouraged that I did not select a program that will lead me straight into a career. Other times, such as when I read this letter by former Butler president Bobby Fong, I know that I am well-prepared for my future in many respects.

So far in my search for a position, one of my most challenging tasks has been to identify and detail the skills I have developed through my education at Butler. What exactly have I gained from a liberal arts education besides the ability to make collages, identify trees around campus, calculate interest and quote Eliot?

Well, primarily, as disparate as the core curriculum can seem, I have actually found myself integrating knowledge from multiple courses within and outside of my majors. For example, when I study an economic event in history, I can understand those economic forces. I can also interpret individual’s thoughts as expressed through literature, art and music. I can analyze the event in a greater context. To me, this signifies a maturity in thought, because I am able to analyze information from various perspectives and appreciate the whole picture.

What I have gained from studying within the humanities is similar. My appreciation and understanding of world cultures, contemporary and historical, has provided me with more than just knowledge. Through my study of Spanish language and literature, I have become a more effective communicator not only because I am bilingual, but because I have a better understanding of cultural features, have served as a tutor in multiple capacities and have been forced to step out of my comfort zone. My study of history has similarly helped my communication skills, through this has principally been through the organization of thoughts into a cohesive critical analysis in my writing. That may sound cliche, but all the writing I’ve done for the History department – from short opinion papers to my various research projects – has disciplined my ability to investigate, analyze and create.

I believe these are skills uniquely gained from a liberal arts experience. While most students can learn to make effective presentations, manage their time and think critically, not all can transcend their own disciplines. Reflecting on my time at Butler, I value not only the academic training I received, but the holistic development I experienced. Perhaps most importantly, from my liberal arts education and focus on the humanities, I have a profound appreciation for the genius and beauty that results from the human mind, and a desire to incorporate this into a career that betters both myself and others.

K through B.A.

After some thinking, and some encouragement, I believe it’s time to get back to blogging. For the past couple months, I have been journeying through my final semester as an undergrad at Butler. Not surprisingly, I’ve done a lot of thinking, and have realized that my life doesn’t have to be so compartmentalized: for example, just because my internship ended doesn’t mean I leave that experience behind, or that I have to leave this blog, that includes valuable reflections, behind either.

Reflection is something that many people may take for granted. I’m not sure we really take the opportunity to appreciate the time and emotions that are involved in reflection, if we make the effort to reflect at all. Blogging has taught me that reflection is so very important in not only evaluating what has occurred in my life, but how I am shaped by it and how I choose to respond.

As my friends know, I am a runner, one who does some of her most constructive thinking on long, solo runs. Yesterday, as I set out to enjoy the beauty of autumn, I experienced a moment of revelation. Suddenly, something quite profound struck me: in a few weeks’ time, I will possess a college degree.

Wow.

I paused mentally for a moment to reflect on what that truly means. It might sound silly but it even took my breath away. I thought about how much of my life, and others’ lives – time, energy, emotion, even money – has brought me to this point. Lately, the most common question I’m asked has been, “What are you doing after graduation?” I myself have come to think of this semester, and graduation, as the final hurdle to jump over to get to my “real life.” (Which itself is a totally ridiculous thought, because all aspects of my life are my “real life.”) I haven’t taken time to appreciate what attaining a college degree really means to me, and that made me sad.

I worry that I’ve undervalued all the parts of my life that have led me to graduating college. I worry that society undervalues my attaining an undergraduate degree because of the notion that there is always more to have.

I’d like to encourage my peers, not just those graduating with me this December, to take time to reflect on what this degree means to him or her. What of yourself have you put into this process? What have you received from this process? What, besides a potential career, does this degree mean in your life? Take the time to appreciate your accomplishment before continuing on your journey.