Panel answers questions, discusses liberal arts degrees

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The University of Indianapolis held a liberal arts panel on Oct. 27 that included four UIndy alumni. The four were Brad Hoekstra, Mark Meadows, Emily Ellis and Chris Dixon. These four had graduated with a liberal arts degree and were there to dispel the stigmas and debunk the myths associated with the degree.

Jim Williams, assistant professor of history and political science and interim associate director of Honors College, led the panel. Jennifer Drake, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, expressed her personal feelings about the stigma that the degree carries and how students should handle the myth.

“I think it’s really important to choose what you’re good at and passionate about and then to make good choices in terms of what experiences add to your course work,” Drake said.

She also said that the College of Arts and Sciences is making sure that it is helping its students understand how the liberal arts are a lot about professional preparation and having them make sure that they are connecting with professional outlets through internships.

Debunking the common myth of unemployment among liberal art graduates was exuberated through the panel and it’s initial set up.

“Dr. Williams in the history department was really driving that. He was involved with a group of faculty who were working with the Professional Edge Center this summer, so I want to give credit to Jeff. He did a great job getting that together,” Drake said.

One of four alumni was Christopher Dixon who graduated in 2008 with an international relations degree. He currently works at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute as the director of Study Abroad.

Williams had proposed the question to the panel about what they would tell their 19-year-old selves that they know now.

“If you are thinking of changing your major, you should change it to liberal arts,” Dixon said.

He supported his answer and continued to say that all the critical thinking that goes into the degree influences more than just a job—it influences communication and life outside of work as well.

Each panel member answered from his or her own perspectives. Each of the panelists had traveled a different path with his or her degree. One became a librarian, another manages truck drivers, and one works in collections at Sallie Mae.

The panelist then turned to answering questions from students who asked the panelists about their professions and how their degrees affected their lives as a whole.

“I feel that the panel bridged the gap for people worrying about getting jobs, especially those who are planning on being teachers,” said freshman history major Dominic Peretin.

Peretin said that he plans to become a history teacher back at his high school in Crown Point Indiana. He said he also plans to specialize in teaching European history.

Another student who attended the event, freshman Morgan is not a liberal arts major, but an art therapy major.

“I think that art and design majors should offer panels…. It would help students if they are uncertain about art and design and make them feel more encouraged,” she said.

Drake said that many departments are working to rid student of their worries about unemployment. She also said that the English literature department also organized a panel event for those students who felt the myths about the degree would affect their chances of getting jobs.

The Professional Edge Center also helps students connect with the outside world, especially by using their degrees through internships and other means of communication here on campus.

Drake emphasized the importance of all students being able to understand their degrees and career paths.

“I do think that it’s important that departments and schools and colleges are having these types of conversations with students. … I feel that it is a very vibrant initiative on campus right now.”

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