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Friday, November 16, 2018

Columns

Liberal arts show intellectual range on par with STEM


liberal arts

Thousands study in the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, one of many programs within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. | Nabil Ahsan/The Cougar

At universities, science, technology, mathematics and engineering majors are placed on pedestals because of their rigorous courses that most other people despise. Liberal arts fields, which encourage and foster invaluable critical thinking, do not receive recognition as equally valuable and important.

Going to college, I have seen STEM students offer up their qualms and grievances about the difficulty of their courses in a patronizing fashion. There’s an underlying superiority because of their supposedly better job prospects and the prevailing thought that liberal arts students’ classes are easy.

The articles, museum exhibits and library archives we enjoy and rely on every day are products of what these fields teach that we don’t usually put into context.

Definitions of liberal arts are broad and differ from school to school. In this piece, I will refer to liberal arts and social sciences under the same umbrella, as UH does with the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The term “liberal arts” has varying interpretations, and a wide-ranging view that can even include mathematics. UH places liberal arts and social sciences under the same college to include communication, philosophy, economics and more.

Liberal studies senior Michelle De Belen, corporate communications senior Glende Killough and creative writing senior Kathy Hill are a few of the students currently studying in this valuable field.

Liberal Studies senior Michelle De Belen. | Courtesy of Michelle De Belen

De Belen enjoys the behind-the-scenes administrative work that’s necessary in all creative fields, but especially stage and film productions, her area of interest.

“This curriculum is important because it teaches you how to think,” De Belen said.

Her major of liberal studies — which combines three liberal arts minors to form one major— allowed her to study the technical work of receiving auditions and being the one auditioning. De Belen chose media production, interdisciplinary art and studio art, but she is considering switching one to public relations.

“Both sides have a mutualistic relationship,” De Belen said. “On the actor side, I think about how to set up my resume and reel, then on the other side (as a casting director), I receive all of it and see what work appeals to me and what doesn’t.”

Picking three liberal arts to study allowed De Belen, and others, to tailor their interests into the best option for them.

For example, aspiring reporters could choose a minor in journalism coupled with Mexican-American studies and anthropology to better enhance their reporting on some minority groups.

Corporate communications senior Glende Killough. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

Liberal arts fields have applications outside of the academy or the stage. Corporations often hire people with liberal arts backgrounds to conduct research on their staff, increasing synergy inside and outside the office.

Glende Killough hopes to do just that. She switched from majoring in biology, with a pre-medical concentration, to the Valenti School of Communication.

“I felt that I was a good people-person, and I wanted to get a degree like business without going into Bauer,” Killough said.

Killough hopes to use her degree in corporate communications to start her own consulting firm to help small businesses with “development and getting (them) started with everything they need to be successful,” she said.

Her current role as the Student Program Board’s social media and programming chair is helping her reach that ultimate goal, she said.

Some liberal arts degrees have very specific — or broad — names and seem that they can go in only one direction. Despite studying creative writing, creative writing senior Kathy Hill doesn’t necessarily want to write as much.

“I’m hoping to be an editor (and) go into publishing,” Hill said.

Just like creative writing majors not always having to go into writing,  English and history majors don’t always have to go into teaching. English majors can be copy editors or librarians and history majors can be archivists or exhibit designers.  

Liberal arts is not a throwaway field. The students who decide to take this path are not confused or unsure about their career paths. It’s a field for innovators, just like math and science.

Opinion editor Dana C. Jones is a print journalism junior. He can be reached at [email protected]

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