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liberal-arts major

Discussion in 'Hồ sơ' started by nvha, Mar 4, 2009.

  1. nvha

    nvha Active Member MBA Family

    Mar 20, 2007
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    Economics Is the 'Just Right' Liberal-Arts

    Like many liberal-arts institutions, Middlebury College, where I teach, has a problem: Too many
    students want to be economics majors. Economics enrollments keep growing, and adding more faculty
    members to the department seems to only increase the demand. The rumor on the campus is that if the
    college actually provided enough professors to meet the demand for economics courses, it would have to
    change its name to the Middlebury School of Economics.
    Professors at other liberal-arts colleges confirm that the phenomenon is widespread and has been for
    some time. But what makes the economics major so appealing? As an economist I like to think that
    economics has become so popular because of its intellectual rigor, broad appeal, and importance to
    understanding the world. And those are clearly part of the answer, especially given the recent financial
    crisis. Modern economics is an exciting and dynamic field of study that has changed considerably in
    recent years; specifically, it has become more quantitative and scientific. Today's economists bring
    technical expertise to interesting and novel questions. They have also expanded their previous narrow
    vision of human behavior. Homo economus is now considered purposeful, not ultrarational, and pursues
    enlightened self-interest, not greed. Psychological insights and traditional economics are blended
    together in today's behavioral economics; because modern economists do not see the market as the
    answer to everything, they are able to be involved in all types of real-world policies, from changing
    default options for people's savings decisions to helping design search algorithms for Google. But as
    much as I'd like to think so, I suspect that those strengths and improvements are not the main reasons for
    the economics major's appeal.
    Most administrators and non-economist faculty members attribute that appeal to economics' relation to
    business. They assume that because liberal-arts colleges don't have business majors, the demand for
    economics is really just a demand for business. To some degree that's right, but it's only a small part of
    the story.
    As part of a report on the economics major that I am working on for the Teagle Foundation, my students
    and I conducted a survey of more than a thousand students majoring in economics at more than 30
    institutions. We found that only 19 percent of the respondents said that the job-training aspect of the
    economics curriculum had been very important to their choice of major. Moreover, only 36 percent said
    they were planning to work in business. The others were planning to go on to professional school or
    work for a nonprofit organization, or had no specific plans. The reality is that at most liberal-arts
    From the issue dated March 6, 2009

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    colleges, economics is taught as a social science far removed from business.
    Companies like to hire economics majors from liberal-arts colleges not because the students have been
    trained in business, but because they have a solid background in the liberal arts. What I hear from
    businesspeople is that they don't care what a job candidate has majored in. They want students who can
    think, communicate orally, write, and solve problems, and who are comfortable with quantitative
    analysis. They do not expect colleges to provide students with specific training in business skills.
    If the economics major's popularity is not due to its intellectual dynamism or connection to business, to
    what is it due? I suspect a mundane explanation: It is the "just right" major. By "just right" I mean that
    the economics major provides the appropriate middle ground of skill preparation, analytic rigor, and
    intellectual excitement that students look for in a major, and that employers look for when hiring
    Consider the results of another question in my survey. We asked economics students to identify majors
    as hard, moderate, or easy, and we found that 33 percent viewed economics as hard, 3 percent said
    sociology was hard, 7 percent saw psychology as hard, and 13 percent thought political science was
    hard. Since other social sciences were the primary alternative majors that most of the economics
    students considered, that data is compelling evidence that the respondents perceived those other majors
    as too easy. Students likely reasoned that taking a "too easy" major would signal to potential employers
    that the student had chosen an easy path through college, thereby hurting their chances of being hired.
    On the other end of the spectrum were math and science majors. In the survey, 81 percent saw chemistry
    as hard, 84 percent thought physics was hard, and 68 percent said math was hard. Those perceptions are
    important, since 38 percent of the economics majors considered one or more of the natural sciences as
    an alternative major.
    The important point is not only that science and math majors are perceived as difficult; most students
    know that employers like students who choose tough courses. The problem, the students I spoke with
    felt, is that science and math — unlike economics — are not meant to provide general students with
    knowledge that they can bring to their everyday lives and jobs. For example, most liberal-arts math
    departments hire professors trained in pure mathematics, who naturally offer courses in pure
    mathematics even though applied math and statistics is more likely to be relevant to students' futures.
    Similarly, the students I spoke with saw course work in the natural sciences as preparation for graduate
    school; if that isn't your goal, they believed, a science major isn't for you.
    The truth is that many companies would love to hire students who have a liberal-arts math or science
    degree, especially if that training focused on applied math and science. The National Leadership
    Council, of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, made this clear in its "Liberal
    Education & America's Promise" report, which stated that "narrow preparation in a single area —
    whether that field is chemistry or information technology or history — is exactly the opposite of what
    graduates need from college."
    At Middlebury, the economics department continually gets students who were planning to major in
    science until they discovered that in a science major, they would be expected to make a deep
    commitment to future graduate work. (How deep is that commitment? Students told me that one science
    student at Middlebury was informed that he would not have time to participate in a sport and also be a
    science major.)
    As chair of the economics department, I am frequently asked by my dean to figure out ways to reduce

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    the number of economics majors — the administration simply refuses to keep increasing the number of
    economics faculty members. I propose that the solution does not lie in changing the economics major,
    but in making other majors "just right" as well.
    To that end, I asked my students why they considered the other social sciences easy. The answer was
    twofold. First, far fewer courses in those fields are taught quantitatively than is the case in economics,
    even though much of the relevant research work is highly quantitative. Other social-science curricula
    could challenge students more by adding some applied-statistics, math, or computer-science courses as
    standard requirements. The second reason my students considered the other majors too easy was that
    they believed the grading standards were undemanding. If they are right, those standards could be raised.
    For example, social-science courses could require students to write substantial papers that are subject to
    rigorous standards of logic and exposition.
    When I asked my students how the natural sciences could become "just right" majors, they suggested
    that those departments focus less on training future scientists and more on educating future citizens
    about the exciting developments in science today. That way, science majors would be able to wait to
    become scientists in graduate school; they could learn about science during their undergraduate years.
    One way to accomplish this might be reducing both the number of required courses and the number that
    require labs. My students also suggested that natural-science introductory classes could be changed from
    "hurdles" — classes designed to scare away students who are not fully dedicated — to "gateways" that
    allow students to experience the wonder of science while welcoming them into the field.
    I don't claim to know whether my students' perceptions of other majors are correct, or whether these
    solutions will work. I don't even know for sure whether the demand for economics courses will remain
    as high as it is now. (While the recent crisis has increased student interest in economics, it may also lead
    to fewer students taking economics as a gateway to a financial career. I suspect that the two forces will
    likely cancel each other out.)
    What I do know is that liberal-arts administrations have their logic backward when they ask economics
    departments to reduce the number of majors. Economics has so many majors because it is doing
    something right. You don't ask a successful department to change; you reward it, and you ask other
    departments to follow its example. Administrators should encourage those departments to become "just
    right," too.

    David Colander is chair of the economics department at Middlebury College. His recent books include
    The Making of an Economist Redux (Princeton University Press, 2007) and The Stories Economists
    Tell (McGraw-Hill, 2006).
    Section: Commentary
    Volume 55, Issue 26, Page A72
    Copyright © 2009 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2009
  2. nvha

    nvha Active Member MBA Family

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    Why the Liberal Arts Need the Sciences (and Vice Versa)


    November 13, 2011

    Why the Liberal Arts Need the Sciences (and Vice Versa)

    Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle
    By Mary Crane and Thomas Chiles

    There is no question that liberal-arts education in the 21st century needs to re-examine both its definition and its scope. While many people assume that the humanities are firmly and solely centered at its core, many others ask: Is that still the case? How would liberal-arts education look if science played a more prominent role?

    At a recent symposium at Boston College's Institute for the Liberal Arts, a panel of experts from the sciences and the liberal arts explained, from their perspectives, why science matters at a liberal-arts university.

    Their arguments seem beyond dispute: It matters because knowledge of science is necessary for an understanding of global warming and species extinction, of the causes and history of human violence, of the ways in which humans alter the natural course of evolution, of the ways in which technology and digital media shape our access to information and to each other, of how technology informs our decisions and influences public policy, of the misleading use of statistics, and of our access to big questions about the nature and origins of the universe.

    The most important answer to the question, however, is simply this: Science matters at a liberal-arts university because the problems facing our global community will not be solved by scientists alone.

    A common theme throughout the symposium was the need for more scientists to better communicate the importance of "big science" and the implications of its findings to the public. For example, while the significance of using public funds to support research to understand the causes of neurodegenerative diseases is obvious to most Americans, using public funds to support the study of quantum string theory might not be; while an issue as complex as global climate change needs scientists to identify its root causes, it also needs faculty members in the humanities and social sciences to evaluate its impact on human populations and societies, and journalists to communicate this information to the wider public.

    In our environmentally and economically challenged, highly technological world, it is crucial that we improve our ability to understand and critically evaluate scientific evidence and arguments. One way to do so is through partnerships between faculty in the natural sciences and faculty from disciplines like journalism, economics, sociology, political science, and philosophy. Together they can develop ways to communicate knowledge about technology and the sciences in an accessible and compelling manner, and to explain the broader relevance of scientific discovery to society. How can we encourage these partnerships? We can start by removing a few key barriers:

    •The barriers to cooperation, one of which is the real—or sometimes imaginary—competition for our universities' available resources. Faculty in the humanities often resent the amount of money allocated to big science and let that resentment keep them from cooperating with colleagues who have laboratories. The natural sciences also feel threatened, with highly competitive financial support subject to the vagaries of the economy, and the percentage of projects approved for funds dropping into the low teens and single digits.

    •The barriers of time, which include efforts to balance teaching, research, and the imperative to publish with service to the university. In the case of the sciences, there are the additional responsibilities of managing complex labs and preparing proposals to gain private and governmental support. Those obligations can keep faculty members from talking to one another, much less to their colleagues in other departments.

    •The barriers of individual disciplines, which encourage faculty to be insular, preferring to talk to people who speak the same disciplinary language. Contemporary cultural theory and philosophy sometimes question scientific positivism in ways that can be off-putting to scientists. Sometimes professors in the humanities and social sciences feel that it's their job—not the job of those in the natural sciences—to teach students about evidence, argument, and the evaluation of information. Some may even fear that these bodies of knowledge will be superseded by science, engineering, and technology, since it often seems that contemporary culture, even within the academy, values science more.

    These barriers are counterproductive. We must focus less on what divides us and more on our commonalities, like our shared commitment to careful and rigorous analysis of evidence, and our presumably common desire to see public discourse about important issues, like climate change, the economy, evolution, and even the nature of the universe, carried out in a more responsible way.

    We also share a dedication to the education of our students, who will form the educated public of tomorrow. It's up to us to ensure that they receive a liberal-arts education that provides them with the skills to critically evaluate information content, its sources, and its relevance. And while the discussion, reading, and thought that are the hallmarks of the humanities are necessary preludes to effective action, students of the liberal arts will be ill-equipped to deal with our complex world without a firm grounding in statistics, computer science, knowledge of the scientific method, and technological literacy.

    The political crisis surrounding the financing of education and scientific research has placed in jeopardy this country's future as a leader in science and technology. These problems cannot be solved by scientists and educators alone, but will require an informed public that can, in turn, influence public policy. We need to train our students to make responsible and ethical decisions based on their evaluation of scientific evidence. We need to motivate them to act—to go beyond discussion and to identify solutions to preserve and sustain the planet for future generations.
    If faculty in the humanities and the sciences let our differences divide us, we will end up like Congress, so polarized that we fail both the planet and our students.

    We must agree to do better than that.

    Mary Crane is the Rattigan professor of English at Boston College and director of the Institute for the Liberal Arts. Thomas Chiles is chairman of the biology department at Boston College.
  3. nvha

    nvha Active Member MBA Family

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    Liberal Arts Degrees: An Asset At Some Companies

    http://www.npr.org/2012/01/16/145309326/liberal-arts-degrees-an-asset-at-some-companies ( text and audio )

    January 16, 201 23:00 PM ET
    Heard on All Things Considered
    FROM Iowa Public Radio

    Technology training and know-how only get you so far in this economy. It turns out many employers now are looking for workers with a broader set of skills. Packaged food giant ConAgra's IT internship program, for example, values a degree in journalism or biology as much as one in computer science. The trend is putting a crimp in the conventional theory that specialization in higher education pays.


    To a new trend now in high tech hiring. Hands-on computer skills are an important assets for many, but not most jobseekers in today's economy.

    But Harvest Public Media's Clay Masters reports that some companies are starting to look a bit broader, filling IT jobs with some unlikely college grads.

    CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: Remember that old joke about how a liberal arts major says hello? You know, you want fries with that? Well, that joke might be turning on those who still use it.

    Consider that Healthy Choice frozen meal you toss into the microwave. There's a lot that goes on behind it. I'm not talking about the physical production of that convenient lunch, but just the way you even know about it, how it gets to the aisle of your local grocery store in the first place.

    GERRIT SCHUTTE: Think of what it takes to produce a product, what it takes to run a factory, what it takes to run a payroll. All of these business processes ultimately are reduced to some form of computer logic.

    MASTERS: That's Gerrit Schutte. He's chief information officer at Omaha-based food company ConAgra. It's the giant behind brands like Healthy Choice and Slim Jim. And like in any company, behind all of its business operations, is its information technology department, which is recruiting more employees off the beaten path.

    The IT department here is huge, about 700 employees. There are no assigned workspaces. One day a week, employees work remotely from home. In 2008, the company revamped its IT internship program to include those who didn't climb the traditional techie ladder, like Eric Fasse who majored in communications studies.

    ERIC FASSE: That initial interview that I had was just going over the skills. And so, you know, they're trying to get a bead on what is your IT background. So they're asking me do you know how to do JavaScript. Do you know how to - and I had to say no to everything.


    FASSE: I thought I'm sunk, like there's no way. I was like, I'm not going to get a call back.

    MASTERS: Fasse didn't just get a call back, he eventually got an IT job at ConAgra. So did Holly Barber, even though on paper her resume may have seemed a bit thin.

    HOLLY BARBER: So, all throughout high school, I was definitely kind of a geek and a gamer. So, I was kind of naturally leaning towards computer science. But I didn't like math, so that was kind of the stumbling block for me, eventually. So I became a computer science major but then switched to journalism.

    MASTERS: The company partners with nearby colleges to grow their own local talent - like Fasse and Barber, right here in Omaha - while still hiring those students who take the normal computer science route.

    Again, ConAgra chief information officer Gerrit Schutte.

    SCHUTTE: We look for them to have more than a single dimension in terms of what they bring to the table. Just technical talent is not enough.

    MASTERS: Debra Humphreys is with the Association of American Colleges and Universities, an organization that acts as an intermediary between colleges and businesses, making sure graduates are prepared for the demands of the rapidly changing workplace. Humphreys also names Siemens and Hewlett Packard as companies open to nontraditional hiring.

    DEBRA HUMPHREYS: The big message for today's college students is to remember that they're preparing now for a lifetime of work, not just for that first job they're going to get right as they graduate. And what we're hearing from employers over and over again is that students really need a combination of broad skills and abilities that you get from a really good college education.

    MASTERS: So, while no one is saying computer science majors won't still be in high demand, it does appear that having some - dare I say - liberal arts training while embracing your inner computer geek, might just be the key to getting your foot in the door.

    For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Omaha.


    SIEGEL: This is NPR News.
  4. nvha

    nvha Active Member MBA Family

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    New Study: Is No Degree Better Than A Liberal Arts Degree?

    Susan Adams , FORBES STAFF
    I write about entrepreneurs, small business owners & what drives them

    A new study by Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel, who runs Millennial Branding, a one-man research and consulting firm in Boston that’s focused on millennials (born between the early ‘80s and the early 2000s), released a study today that comes to some conclusions I find startling. The most unsettling: If you are in the millennial generation and your goal is to find a job, it may be wiser to get no college degree at all than to spend four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars earning a humanities B.A. In a survey of nearly 3,000 job seekers and HR professionals, Schawbel, together with career website Beyond.com, found that a striking 64% of hiring managers said they would consider a candidate who hadn’t gone to a day of college. At the same time, fewer than 2% of hiring managers said they were actively recruiting liberal arts grads.

    There is a bit of an apples and oranges problem with these findings. One survey question asked hiring managers what degrees they preferred. Only 1.6% said liberal arts. The top majors: “Other,” which included mechanical engineering, math and education, engineering and computer information systems (27%), business (18%) and medicine/nursing (13.3%) Weirdly, accounting, which in other surveys frequently scores near the top, was just above liberal arts at 3.5% and finance and economics, which also usually makes a strong showing, scored just 4.7%. Says Shawbel, “there was so much other interesting data that we just looked past those two results.” But just last month I wrote up a survey by the Nation Association of Colleges and Employers, which polled some 1,015 of its employer members, and found that accounting and economics were among the most sought after diplomas, with 59% of respondents saying they wanted to hire accounting major and 28.5% saying they were looking for economics majors. It could be a reflection of Schawbel’s smaller sample size of just 280 hiring managers. Humanities majors fared a bit better in the NACE study, with 13.9% of employers saying they would hire them.

    A separate question in Schawbel’s study asked about the importance of a college degree. That’s where 64% of hiring managers said, “it’s important but I’d consider a candidate without one.” Nearly 8% said,“It’s not important. I’m looking for the candidate with the best experience.” Schawbel’s conclusion: “You don’t really need to have a college degree.”

    Demonstrating the skills that employers want is more important, he says. When asked about the top three attributes they want in a candidate, hiring managers said a positive attitude (84%), communication skills (83%) and an ability to work as a team (74%). I would argue that successful humanities majors demonstrate those attributes, but apparently, when an employer sees the degree, she gets turned off.


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