A Primer on the Liberal Arts

I have coined the phrase "liberally-arted" when I speak with our students who are obtaining a liberal arts degree at George Fox. Some have a keen understanding of what it means and others get that "blank look" when asked about it. Peter Vogt in the College Journal notes, "Liberal arts graduates sometimes don't buy the idea that they have salable skills - especially when they see students in such … majors as computer science, accounting and finance being courted by employers as early as the summer before their senior year."

That observation can be defeating or it can be a challenge to be met. There is a richness about the liberal arts that transcends the basic, rudimentary acquisition of knowledge and related skill. Our students are focusing on areas of study (majors, minors), but at the same time are taking courses in a breadth of topics to prepare them for life in a changing world environment.

Even a professional program like engineering has a portion of the liberal arts in the general education core curriculum. This body of learning prepares our students to do "work befitting a free man/woman" (translation from the Latin). In other words, it is less confined to a specific set of knowledge and can be used productively in many places throughout the world of work. The liberal arts is also known as transferable knowledge and abilities. A true life example of this would be a trained engineer who is now doing college career work.

Forty-seven percent of our George Fox 2004-05 graduates are employed full time outside of their major. Those employed within their major - the remaining percentage - may have majors commonly known as fitting the liberal arts category such as the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities and languages ( Some of our more recent graduates are using their liberal arts degrees this way:

Majors: Corresponding Job Titles:

Accounting Audit assistant

Biology College resident director

Business Admin. Enrollment Specialist

History Premier Account Executive

Organizational Comm. Event Manager

Writing/Lit. Sales Associate

Psychology Customer Service Coordinator

Christian Min. Manager

A question that often surfaces is whether or not an employer will hire a liberal arts graduate. The resounding answer is yes.

  • "Many employers know that a liberal arts education prepares students for successful careers … The majority of employers surveyed indicated that a new employee with the right skills could easily learn the specifics of an industry. (, NACE)
  • "An AT&T survey also found that liberal arts majors advance more quickly to middle and senior management positions than their colleagues who pursued other fields of study… These graduates become employees that are ready to learn." (
  • "What I need are people who are well-rounded, who can figure things out quickly, who don't need tremendous supervision and who do what they say they'll do, the first time … who know the importance of having high integrity and honesty." (Don Dion of Dion Money Management, quoted by Peter Vogt, College Journal)

This list represents the Top 10 Qualities Employers Seek in Job Candidates; all are learned at some level in a liberal arts curriculum and setting:

1. Communication Skills

2. Motivation/Initiative

3. Teamwork

4. Leadership

5. Academic Achievement/GPA

6. Interpersonal Skills

7. Flexibility/Adaptability

8. Technical Skills

9. Honesty & Integrity

10. Analytical/Problem Solving Skills/Work ethic also in 10th position

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

How can we (parents and the university) be assured our graduates are getting the most from this "liberally-arted" education? Here are some tried and true methods to help our students be on track, increasing their chances of future success:

  1. Know their skills and hone them
  2. Be involved as a leader and/or participant in activities
  3. Create a minor to enhance the major; take suitable electives
  4. Get work experience; internship and general employment
  5. Explore entry level employers who look for liberal arts grads
  6. Develop a network of alumni and other professionals
  7. Define what they want to do with their passion, training and skills
  8. Develop a cover letter and resume with a "brand"
  9. Consider creating and using a portfolio
  10. Learn to interview in a way that sells the liberal arts aspect
  11. Consider graduate school if necessary for vocational goals
  12. Engage in the activities of Career Services: Vocation and Calling Fitness, early in their college career

We are here to help the students find their best future using their liberal arts degrees! Please suggest they come see us ASAP (calendars at

Bonnie Jerke, Director
Career Services: Vocation and Calling Fitness
Stevens 325

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