06 April 2017

The Return of Support for Acquiring a Liberal Arts Degrees: An Anthropological Perspective

There have recently been a spate of news articles discussing the importance of liberal arts degrees and graduates' chance for success:
In a recent article by Brock scholars, Norton and Martini (released 2017) argue that: "Canadian university students tend to endorse employment-related reasons for attending university ahead of other reasons such as personal satisfaction or intellectual growth." In their study, first- and fourth-year students placed "a greater emphasis on benefits related to career preparation and economic advancement than those associated with learning and self-improvement." However, when asked to evaluate the importance of a comprehensive list of degree-related benefits both groups of students endorsed the value of many of them, including those related to learning and self-improvement. When discussing why students might focus on so-called employment-related learning, the authors argue that "harsh economic realities and high unemployment rates for young adults, coupled with large increases in the perceived cost of a degree, may also underlie the fact that students endorse career-related benefits above all others" (Norton and Martini, 2017:10).

I read Norton and Martini's work as part of this larger discussion of the usefulness of liberal arts degrees of which anthropology finds itself included, if not closely related. 

As advocates for the use of anthropology and its lessons, literally everywhere, the requirement to prove the usefulness of anthropology as a discipline that makes students ready for the workplace seems ridiculous. But in thinking back to my own education, I was rarely told (if ever) about the skills that I gained through my degree (beyond critical thinking). While we're talking about an education that at the undergraduate level ended just over 15 years ago, neither my Masters or Doctoral training provided me with the ability to articulate these skills either. 

Follow this link to Simon Fraser's page on Skills in Anthropology which you might want to feature on your next resume and cover letter.

Quick links and further reading: