Perspectives and Insights about Higher Education

The advice I gave my own children when they started college was to major in whatever they found most fun, interesting, challenging and enjoyable. I told them to concentrate on developing the skills important for success in a variety of careers and for life in general. One major versus another is less important than developing such skills.

A college degree is not just a vocational certificate for an entry-level job. A quality education enhances every aspect of our lives. In addition to preparing us for flexible career development, our college experience should prompt the intellectual, personal and social growth that gives us greater self - determination, success and happiness in our lives, in our relationships, and in our society.

I recommend that students honestly evaluate themselves on the skills and competencies on the following lists. Take the classes and work to improve those skills and competencies. Think about how you will demonstrate them to prospective employers.

Barbara Keating

On this page below:

1.      A College Graduate Should ...

2.      A Quality Education Includes ...

3.      Skills Students Need to Succeed in Jobs, School and Relationships

4.      The Purpose of General Education

5.      Carnegie Foundation Recommends Increase in General Education Requirements

6.      Liberal Arts Majors and Business Careers

See also on linking pages:

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A College Graduate Should:

That's a tall order. And it represents the work of a lifetime, of course, not just of two or four years. But the attitudes and spirit that underlie these skills can be developed in the course of a college career. They can be developed, but frequently they are not.

From: Rhodes, Frank. 1985. Opinion Column in Chronicle of Higher Education (May 22. as quoted by Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 6, 1988 on page 3-B)

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A Quality Education Includes:

1. Knowledge of a broad range of facts and concepts

2. Knowledge of self, self-acceptance, and self-development

3. Knowledge of others, open-mindedness to other customs and points of view

4. Ability to read and think critically, solve problems, use scientific methods

5. Ability to communicate effectively in a variety of ways (orally, in writing, graphically.

6. Ability to be productive in a satisfying occupation

7. Interest in life-long learning, in sharing knowledge and skills

8. Interest in community involvement, social responsibility, and/or world citizenship

From a 1984 survey of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Faculty

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Skills Students Need to Succeed in Jobs, School and Relationships:

  1. Thinking Skills
  2. Working In Teams
  3. The Dynamics Of Power And Leadership
  4. Decision Making Skills
  5. And Communication Techniques.

From Croes, Shelley. 1997. "Program urges students to learn." The Free Press, January 11.

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The Purpose of General Education

"My appointment, when it came, was in the General Education Program, an innovation in the Harvard curriculum inspired by the experience of the 1939-1945 war, and the Harvard facultyís decision that, thenceforth, Harvard undergraduates would understand the political and intellectual tradition which western democracies had inherited from the Greeks, and from the Western European experience. The General Education Committee sponsored courses that were aimed to ensure that every graduate would be alert to:

From: Conway, Jill Ker. 1994. Page 45 in True North: a Memoir. NY: Alfred A. Knopf (BK: bolding and bullets mine)

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Carnegie Foundation Recommends Colleges Increase General Education Requirements

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recommended that colleges increase general education requirements. Suggested that students study an integrated core of seven broad areas:

1. Language
2. Art
3. Cultural heritage
The Social Web of Institutions

The Foundation also suggested that majors should be broadened to require students study such things as the history of and ethical questions about their chosen field. Computer science majors, for example, should study the social impact of the information revolution.

From: Boyer, Ernest. 1986. College: The Undergraduate Experience in America. Princeton, N.J.: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (as quoted in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, November 2, 1986: p 22A):

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Liberal Arts Majors and Business Careers

"...James L. Ferguson, of General Foods Corporation, maintains that leaders will have to be ëcapable of a perspective view of things in the whole as well as in part,í and will have to understand how the parts interrelate. Leaders will require ëthe ability to comprehend and to empathize, to listen to people and to hear clearly what they say about their needs and aspirations, to elicit the needs and skills of others, to bring them together and work in concern toward a solution or an objective. I cannot conceive of a more persuasive case for the value of a liberal arts education.í" (quoted from Haire, "How Colleges Can Attract Corporate Funding) ...

"One overall conclusion from these data is that there is no need for liberal arts majors to lack confidence in approaching business careers. The humanities and social science majors in particular continue to make a strong showing in managerial skills and have experience considerable business success." (quoted from Beck, "Career patterns: The Liberal Arts Major in Bell System Management")

What this information suggests is that students do not lack marketable skills but may lack a way to identify, describe, and promote the skills they have acquired. Successful performance in a job is composed of a complex of work content skills and functional skills. A functional skill crosses occupational boundaries and stems from a variety of learning situations and is transferable in that it can be applied from one setting to another. Examples are: critical thinking and reasoning skills, research skills, leadership skills, planning and organizing skills, communication skills, and interpersonal skills... A basic skill indispensable to occupations in a knowledge information society is research."

From: Lapin, Joel D. 1983. "Undergraduate Sociology as Career Preparation." ASA Teaching Newsletter 8 (#6, Dec.):12-13.

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