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.