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Studies point to value of a liberal arts education

liberal arts education

By Alicia Potter

Students who receive a liberal arts education will “flourish over the long term in this society and this economy,” Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) senior vice president Debra Humphreys told a group of faculty and administrators who gathered in the Heights Room December 3 to hear her speech “A 21st-Century Liberal Education of Purpose, Meaning, and Well-Being.”

A guest of the Division of Student Affairs and the Boston College Career Center, Humphreys made a persuasive case for the liberal arts in her presentation, highlighting a series of surveys conducted by the 100-year-old, Washington, D.C.-based association comprised of colleges and universities. Of particular note, she said, was a 2015 poll of 400 employers, two-thirds of whom said they believed that a broad-ranging education, coupled with field-specific skills, best prepares students for professional success. Eighty percent of employers who responded said that humanities-based skills—including writing, spoken communication, working effectively with others in teams, and critical thinking—are  “essential capabilities” in the workplace.

In today’s knowledge-driven economy, Humphreys said, “intellectual skills are practical skills.”

Humphreys also pointed to Gallup research indicating that students who participate in experiences such as internships, semester-long projects or theses, and cocurricular activities tend to enjoy higher levels of career satisfaction, and in turn, overall well-being. “Students understand,” she said, “that it’s not just about getting a job. It’s about creating a life of meaning.”