THE BLOG
12/10/2013 01:55 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2014

One Response to the Decline of the Liberal Arts

Those of us in higher education who are committed to the liberal arts are concerned about the fact that today's students -- and their parents -- do not seem to value the academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. National economic trends, the lack of a clear career path for students majoring in liberal arts disciplines, and policy pressure in Washington and various state governments all conspire to drive many students to choose industry-specific majors that exhibit clear career paths.

Employers, however, continue to value a liberal arts education, especially if it is linked to some applied area of study. A poll conducted by Hart Research Associates for the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that employers prefer to hire workers whose education includes a mix of liberal arts and applied disciplines.

The poll, which surveyed 318 employers, concluded that employers "recognize capacities that cut across majors as critical to a candidate's potential for career success, and they view these skills as more important than a student's choice of undergraduate major."

The poll, which was published last April, found that 80 percent of the surveyed employers agreed that every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences, regardless of their major.

A substantial majority of the employers recognize the importance of a liberal arts education, and 74 percent said that they would recommend it to a young person they know as, "the best way to prepare for success in today's global economy."

At Daemen College in Amherst, New York, we agree with these findings, and we have taken measures to offer "blended" curricula to our undergraduates as a way to prepare them for the global economy they will face.

We recently launched a new "blended academic curricula," or "Plus" program, that will offer bachelor's degrees that connect undergraduate majors in the liberal arts with practical career-track curricula and emerging job opportunities.

Under the leadership of Daemen's Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Michael Brogan and the Chair of our Modern Languages Department, Dr. Denise Mills, the College is attempting to capture the underlying spirit and benefits of a liberal arts education and wed it to a practical array of pragmatic career pathway curricula that students and parents are demanding.

This new academic initiative has been under development for two years and began this year with a link between the Modern Languages and one of five growing career pathways: Paralegal Studies, Community Health, Global Business, Human Resource Management, and Public Policy. We plan to have almost every undergraduate major in the liberal arts linked to these and other job-related tracks by the end of 2014.

Daemen's blended academic programming will provide students with the communication and creative thinking skills grounded within the liberal arts, while preparing students for employment and career options in emerging job growth areas. Daemen's Modern Language Plus program will be the first phase of a campus-wide initiative to blend the liberal arts with the skills that the private sector wants and needs.

For example, our Modern Languages Plus Global Business Track will prepare students for a growing job market in international business and trade. In this Plus program, students will spend a semester abroad, take 48 credit hours in two foreign languages, and take 30 credits in Global Business, including Introduction to International Business, Principles of Marketing, Managerial Accounting, Microeconomics, Business Law, and Diversity and Cross Cultural Management. Students would also participate in both local and international internships.

Another example of the Plus program is a bachelors degree in Spanish Plus a Paralegal Studies Certificate. Other Plus programs would have a similar core in the Modern Languages plus a concentration in such areas as Public Policy, Human Resource Management, and Community Health.

Students and their parents demand a college education that provides students with the skill sets that will lead to a meaningful career upon graduation, and employers want those same students to graduate with critical thinking abilities, written and oral communication skills, and complex problem-solving acumen. We believe that Daemen College is on the right path to providing both stakeholders a blended educational opportunity that will help meet both demands. The intent is to enhance and celebrate educating the whole person while providing essential technical standards associated with specific career fields, in an efficient, coherent, and meaningful four-year experience.