CAREER-MINDED: Vance Morgan, center, professor of philosophy and director of Providence College’s Development of Western Civilization program, speaks with PC students Tessa Rutledge and Walter Manning.
Supplementing a liberal arts education with “real-world experience” is the carrot career-center directors and admissions staff at Rhode Island’s colleges and universities increasingly dangle when marketing their schools to incoming freshmen.
“It’s the No. 1 thing students ask about from day one when they’re talking to me,” said Andrew Simmons, Brown University’s director of the Center for Careers and Life After Brown.
Educators at Brown, Providence College, Roger Williams University and Rhode Island College agree that the tight job market and high cost of education are forcing prospective students and their parents to “ask the hard questions” at open houses prior to choosing a school – namely, how does a liberal arts education help a student land a job?
The answer, they say, is that providing internships, more research projects with faculty and networking with alumni take students further than a liberal arts degree does by itself.
Rhode Island College liberal arts graduate Valeria Canar, 24, of Uxbridge, Mass., now works as a chemist for Perkin Elmer Life Science of Boston. She says the research project she participated in as a student jointly with University of Rhode Island students, practicing the most-efficient ways to produce polypeptides, or amino acids, gave her hands-on experience.
That, supplemented with “thinking on her feet” while presenting research data, contributed to the way she communicates with her supervisor at work today, she said.
“In the real world, sometimes you just need to do your own research and work independently,” Canar said.
A 2013 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Association of American Colleges and Universities, “It Takes More Than a Major,” found that 75 percent of employers surveyed believe applied knowledge in real-world settings as well as the liberal arts skills of critical thinking, complex problem-solving, and written and oral communication should be emphasized.