Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Alumni Answers: How have you used your liberal arts education?

Having graduated from the University of Dallas, which prides itself in its liberal education, how useful is this type of education to you now? Can you see yourself where you are now having received a more focused and specialized education, rather than a liberal one? (Andy, Sophomore, Philosophy and Letters)

Dean C. (BA Mathematics 1994), Senior Consulting Actuary at Willis Towers Watson

Learning to think and reason is a tool which will serve you well in the future, regardless of your major or chosen career. Companies and organizations need leaders who can see the whole picture and reason through a range of possible outcomes to find the best paths forward. UD forms minds for rational thought and also forces us to be able to communicate our thoughts, both orally and written. Many young analysts (millennials) in my company struggle to focus on the task at hand and often defer to tacit agreement with other opinions rather than actually forming their own. Fight the urge to be agreeable and think outside the box. The moral aspect of your education will also make you shine as you will not spend half your day on Facebook or other social media sites when you are being paid to do a job. The ethical training inherent in a solid Catholic formation helps those of us who are disciplined by our Faith to succeed in a world which migrates to mediocrity.

John P. (BA Politics, 1987), Senior Analyst at Legislative Budget Board, State of Texas

The liberal education at UD taught me how to write and how to think carefully about very difficult questions. It also greatly improved my understanding of the world, and that is priceless. There’s precious little time for that after you graduate from college, get a full time job, and possibly start a family. Save the specialized education for graduate school. It will serve you just as well (if not better) then. For the moment (as an undergraduate), enjoy the precious opportunity to study important questions and read great books with thoughtful students and professors.

Phillip W. (BS Biology, 2015), Fulbright Research Scholar, Fulbright Organization (Madrid, Spain)

The education at UD is priceless. I work in medical research, and I use the critical thinking skills I learned from the Core everyday. You would be amazed at how many people in specialized industries regret not having had a broader education. They are highly skilled technicians, but they were never taught how to think, how to live an examined life, or (frankly) how to write coherently and build an argument. Most specialized fields require graduate degrees anyway, so you might as well study something you love and receive a philosophical formation, take your prerequisite courses for graduate programs, and then worry about getting into a specialized field. You’ll be happier and taken more seriously as a professional when you start applying for specialized jobs.

John L. (BA Business, 2016), General Ledger Accountant I at Associa

Hi Andy, One of the things I most appreciate about my education at UD is the breadth of things I studied. I was a business major and am now working in accounting, so obviously I do need to have a strong grasp of specific concepts relevant to my work, but I believe that UD really prepared me well despite perhaps a less specific/specialized education. After I’ve left UD, I’ve found myself drawing on topics from both regular core classes as well as things I learned in various business core classes. With a more specialized education, you get to know a lot about that one particular topic, but the world is much more than just one topic. Everything intertwines and if you are at least familiar with things other people are talking about, that is such a help. I know you’re a seminarian so this may not directly apply, but when I’ve had case studies about business situations or at work, I’ve discovered that I at least know generally speaking what others are talking about in many cases, even if it’s something I’m not specifically familiar with. Again, no discipline exists in a vacuum, so if you’ve at least been introduced and know a little about other disciplines, it will help you when you come across situations which deal with those disciplines or you have to interact with a specialist in those disciplines, and then you aren’t totally clueless when speaking with them.

Matthew C. (BA English, 1992), Structures Technician at SpaceX

Where I am now has nothing to do with my course of study at university, but it gave me a well-rounded background. This, in turn, makes it easier to find common ground with total strangers of varied backgrounds. Had I chosen a trade school to learn my current trade, I’d be much further along in my career, but again, would not have wealth of knowledge amassed in a classic education and extensive travel.

Joseph H. (BA English, 2000), Leadership Program Officer at Southern Methodist University

Very useful, what’s more it is the more liberal arts components of my education that continually prove the most useful and I wish I’d specialized less than I did. Currently I work in fundraising, communications, and stake holder relations for higher education, and my education beyond UD is in technical communication and rhetoric. In terms of my graduate education, a more specialized focus would have presented certain advantages (the old saw in technical communication is that where your major – presumably English – determines the work you do your minor determines where you do it – so people with a little background in Biology are more likely to work in the medical field, etc), but it was my liberal arts background that continually impressed and surprised people, opened doors for the better sorts of opportunities, and let my pursue my own interests rather than well-worn paths. For this career, it is, in fact, possible to major in Higher Education and while it is not as dire as it might sound, it’s actually less likely to give you a broad picture of the issues involved in the life of the university than actually taking classes in multiple disciplines and being in an environment where faculty collaborate openly and freely. When I say I wish I had been less specialized, it’s that I do wish I had pursued, say, more education in Education while at UD or taken the opportunity to pick up some programming chops. It’s not that those options aren’t available later, but that having a breadth beyond the core and a focus on discrete competencies helps to make the advantages of the core show up better – which was certainly my experience when I did began taking up such learning later. Thank you for your question.

Todd S. (MBA Organizational Development 2012), Self-employed Talent Development Consultant

A liberal arts education has helped me see things beyond one point of view or perspective. It has allowed me to make connections between work, faith and personal life. Liberal arts helped me build critical thinking skills and draw upon many types of viewpoints when making a decision…

Rachel L. (BS Biology, 2011), Certified Physician Assistant (PA-C)  at Children’s Medical Center

Hi Andy, This is an excellent question. I was a biology major who had always planned to pursue a career in the medical field. That being said, part of the reason that I chose UD was for its strong core curriculum in the liberal arts. Now, that doesn’t mean it was easy. Being more “left-brained” and more adept at the sciences, I struggled through some of my literature, philosophy, and theology classes. However, in retrospect, these core classes were valuable to make me a well-rounded individual, for both my personal and professional goals. I am so glad I received a liberal arts education! Best, Rachel L.

Hannah O., (BA History, 2011), Technical Services Librarian at City of Duncanville (Duncanville Public Library)

I feel like my liberal education gave me a great general background, and a greater appreciation for all the different realms of knowledge. Since I’m a librarian, these are especially good things to have. The intangibles would have been worth it even if I didn’t end up in that profession, however.


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