Many people think liberal arts degrees are of less value and carry less weight than traditional routes such as engineering and medicine especially when it comes to high-in-demand work skills. However, today’s businesses prefer leaders to have excellent communication skills, able to identify and explain complex issues and know about different histories and cultures — all of which are taught and covered comprehensively within liberal arts degrees.
For proof, look at the number of famous CEOs who have liberal arts backgrounds: Howard Schultz, Chairman Emeritus of Starbucks (BS Communications); Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO (BA in History and Literature); Jack Ma, former Alibaba Chairman (BA in English), Stewart Butterfield, Slack CEO (BA in Philosophy) and Andrea Jung, former CEO for Avon Products (BA English).
All these CEOs did not take or had minimal business classes and yet their businesses have been “richer” and better because their liberal arts degrees helped them develop interpersonal and analytical skills — essential for business networking and management.
If you are now intrigued how a liberal arts degree can help you become a global leader, here are four liberal arts colleges in the US that may help you chart your path.
Eastern Connecticut State University
Main entrance of Eastern Connecticut State University. Source: Eastern Connecticut State University
If you seek a public university with a private college atmosphere, head to Eastern Connecticut State University. It is ranked the top public regional university in New England for three consecutive years and the only Connecticut public regional university included in US News and World Report’s North Region list of “best value” schools.
With the best four-year graduation rate in the Connecticut State University system — which is more than twice the national average for public institutions its size — it is little wonder that 30,000 graduates have gone on to forge successful careers as scientists, artists, writers, and more, with local and international recognition.
Central to this is the Eastern in 4 Academic Plan. All first-year students work with their academic advisor and Advising Centre staff to confirm their major, determine the courses they must take to graduate, consider electives they want to pursue, and develop a semester-by-semester approach to their Eastern career. This ensures students do better academically and increases their likelihood of graduating.
This plan is complemented with a hands-on approach to learning. There is nothing like practical experience to teach you real-life applications of the knowledge gained in class — which is why Eastern offers over 700 academic internships, undergraduate student research opportunities, service learning through community service projects, and the unique Global Studies programme where students and faculty travel for overseas field studies.
Across the 41 majors, 65 minors and over 60 concentrations offered, the value of an Eastern liberal arts education is clear. Every Eastern graduate demonstrates skills essential to professional and personal success, including critical thinking, effective communication, a commitment to ethics, and more.
With a main campus in Annandale, New York and other campuses in three US states and Berlin, this public college with a private college atmosphere has a strong tradition of offering higher education in the public interest. Students can create individualised educational plans with distinguished faculty across four main divisions.
Bard College’s undergraduate liberal arts curriculum is based on: Language and Thinking Programme, First-Year Seminar, Citizen Science — all First-Year students take these common subjects, Moderation and Senior Project.
The Language and Thinking Programme, offered in August, focuses on writing with extensive reading and projects via small groups and one-on-one conferences with faculty. The two-semester First-Year Seminar sees students engaged in class discussions and writing assignments on intellectual, cultural and artistic topics. Citizen Science, taken in January, introduces students to a specific scientific topic where they explore methodological and conceptual approaches.
Moderation is where students write two Moderation Papers and present a sample of work — assessed by a faculty board to decide if they can enter Upper College. Finally, the Senior Project involves coursework, tutorials and seminars to prepare students to present their chosen project for review.
Students eventually graduate from Bard with analytical and reasoning skills, critical for successful leadership positions.
As one of the first-tier best national liberal arts colleges (US News and World Report), and one of the best Midwest colleges (Princeton Review), Wartburg College, with its campus in Waverly, Iowa, despite its small size, offers several outstanding benefits to their students: personal interaction with professors, a close-knit network of lifelong connections and leadership programme. Excellent high school students can also apply for the Wartburg Scholars Programme (Honours Programme).
Their liberal arts curriculum has over 60 study areas; besides having the oldest social work undergraduate programme in Iowa, Wartburg College is the only private college to offer music therapy as a major in Iowa. Undergraduates can also undertake research with faculty mentors and hone their academic skills; funding is available for travelling to present their research at conferences.
Besides offering the 4-4-1 academic calendar (four courses each in both Fall and Winter Terms and one course in May Term), students can opt to volunteer or study abroad during the May Term or summer. The Wartburg Plan of Essential Education helps the students develop critical workplace skills such as communication, information literacy, reasoning, intercultural awareness and inquiry — through a combination of Inquiry Studies, Interconnected and Interdisciplinary courses.
Sewanee College, or the University of the South, located in Tennessee, with Episcopal roots, has been welcoming students from all backgrounds to their College of Arts and Sciences that provides a liberal arts education. Their campus includes the famous Domain — 13,000 acres of natural scenery such as forests and lakes — providing a rich recreational and research resource experience for all students and faculty.
Performing and visual arts are part of the everyday learning experience for students; the Sewanee campus has many exhibition and performance spaces such as the University Art Gallery and the Museum Gallery. For example, the Arts Amplified allows students to propose collaboration performances and exhibitions that combine at least two different visual and performing arts; the Advisory Committee will review and help students prepare the setup, marketing and logistics. Students can also participate in the Art Forum events, as part of Sewanee Engage.
Undergraduate students can choose from 38 majors, 44 minors and 15 special programmes; the liberal arts curriculum has three main parts — general education courses based on eight learning objectives including literary analysis and interpretation, understanding the arts, and seeking meaning, major and electives — graduates ultimately have critical thinking, creative-making, judgment and leadership skills, all crucial for leadership roles.