College president: Why the tech industry needs liberal arts graduates

Calls emphasis on specific technical training 'dangerous'

Even as the economy moves toward technology-driven jobs, the industry still needs liberal arts graduates to bring critical thinking, experiences, and curiosity to the table, one college president contends in U.S. News & World Report.

Tuajuanda Jordan, president of St. Mary's College of Maryland, argues that the public often forgets about scientists—such as Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci—who had no formal training in the field but contributed great discoveries and ideas.

Most people, she says, think that humanities and science topics are separated by a "rigid barrier," when in reality they complement each other.

Prospective students increasingly look at outcomes to choose colleges

Increasingly, parents and students are looking to their return on investment when deciding what educational path to pursue—and as more and more jobs are created in the tech industry, some have begun asking if the liberal arts are even necessary.

However, many tech CEOs say they prefer employees who studied liberal arts because they "thrive in subjectivity and ambiguity, a necessary skill in the tech world where few things are black and white."

Also in EAB Daily Briefing
Why employers love liberal arts graduates

According to a survey from the National Academy of Sciences, nearly one out of five scientists elected into the academy over a two-year period were graduates of liberal arts institutions—despite the fact that such schools produce just 3% of all college graduates. Chemistry Nobel laureate Thomas Cech attributes this to the schools' supportive environments and mixing of humanities and sciences.

Blending job training and higher education is dangerous, writes Jordan. Specific, technical training that is in high demand now may be obsolete in a few years.

"Yet we can be sure of this: No matter the economic landscape, you’ll need a broad knowledge base and the ability to think across disciplines and make informed decisions, often outside of an area of expertise," she writes, adding that it is particularly true for those who choose to change careers multiple times.

Additionally, the liberal arts help students understand human interactions—improving their effectiveness regardless of their position or field.

Liberal arts "provides you with questions," Jordan concludes, which may be the reason some of the "greatest scientists" studied them (Jordan, U.S. News & World Report, 1/12).

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