Liberal arts degree is today’s best career preparation

As an Arkansas delegate, Rock Jones addresses the 2020 Mock Convention in February. The convention was a showcase for liberal arts learning, as students debated issues of science, economics, the arts, education, and, of course, politics.

The Ohio Wesleyan Board of Trustees held a retreat in February to consider the challenges and opportunities facing OWU over the next decade. The Board heard reports on the characteristics of Generation Z, the very different generation of students entering college now. The Board reviewed the impact of changing demographics on American higher education, including the fact that the number of students entering college in this country has declined each year for the past six years, and they considered the impact of technology on higher education in the future.

Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University and an economist who has devoted 40 years to the study of the economics of higher education, was the keynote speaker. Morton shared data from his research showing that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for students who will move across multiple occupations over the course of their lifetime. He noted that the skills needed for the 21st-century workforce include quantitative skills, deep aesthetic appreciation, respect for diversity and inclusion, empathy, tools for lifelong learning, and the humility to acknowledge how little one knows and how much one must learn. These skills are deeply embedded in liberal education.

Morton further noted that studies of economic mobility show that selective liberal arts colleges have the best record in all of higher education for providing pathways for students to climb from the bottom quintile of family income to the top quintile. Our institutions are the ladder of opportunity.

The Board acknowledged that we live in a time of unprecedented disruption and change in higher education. Such a time requires our university to examine every aspect of the ways in which we organize to educate students. At the same time, the Board was clear at the conclusion of the retreat that our future rests in continued excellence in liberal arts education.

I marvel at the stories I hear from our alumni about how their liberal arts education has propelled them into lives of meaning and impact, enrichment and fulfillment.

Our institutions are the ladder of opportunity.

Rock Jones

President, Ohio Wesleyan University

In this issue of OWU Magazine, you will read about alumni who followed their passions to the wine and beer industry. Some are entrepreneurs who started their own companies, created their own brews, and developed their own distribution networks. Others are senior executives in larger organizations.

Their undergraduate majors include accounting, chemistry, philosophy, politics and government, and psychology. They studied broadly across the disciplines, and they studied deeply in their chosen major. They developed the tools of creativity, inquiry, analysis, entrepreneurship, teamwork, and resilience required for success in a rapidly changing world.

With those tools, they have taken their place in leadership in an industry that has changed dramatically over the past 25 years. Together, they exude the values and benefits of liberal arts education.

Ohio Wesleyan will continue to adapt to serve the changing needs of our students, including ensuring our curriculum prepares students for lives of meaningful and productive work and providing increasing support through our Career Connection program. We will do this while preserving our abiding commitment to the values and benefits of an education grounded in the liberal arts.

As you read this issue, I encourage you to consider the ways in which your life has been enriched by your liberal arts education, and in your own way to raise a glass to your alma mater and to the enduring values that give OWU a memorable history and a bright future.

Rock Jones
President, Ohio Wesleyan University
Twitter: @owu_rockjones

Return to the Spring 2020 OWU Magazine