Liberal arts degrees decline; opportunities still there

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    In kindergarten, parents encourage their children to follow their dreams and pursue a field they love. In college, when parents have to pay for school, the idea of pursuing a field based on passion changes drastically to pursuing a field that can potentially help pay off loans. This contradiction can make some fields and majors a little more difficult to follow than others.”I knew I wanted to study religion coming into college,” said Vanessa Van Auken, a senior religion and political science major. “But I was really scared starting as a religion major. Everyone makes fun of liberal arts majors because they say there’s nothing you can do with it.”

    Senior Laura Matysiak, a secondary education and English major, said she had similar concerns.

    “I started as an English major, but there’s only so much you can do with that,” Matysiak said.

    To ensure she had a set career, Matysiak opted to major in secondary education in addition to English with the goal of teaching high school English.

    “But, once I started student teaching, I realized I didn’t have the patience or the passion for it,” Matysiak said.

    This concept seems to have had a similar effect for many students. While 311 students received degrees from AddRan College of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2004, that number has declined to 266 degrees in 2006.

    But for many of the AddRan graduates this semester, that’s not a problem. For a large number of students, an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts is only the beginning.

    Though Van Auken said many people think there’s little you can do with a liberal arts degree, that’s really not the case at all,

    “There are all sorts of jobs you can get with a liberal arts degree, and it’s especially useful for continuing education,” she said.

    Van Auken has been accepted to and is currently deciding between several law schools to attend in the fall, where she intends to earn both a joint degree and master’s degree in public policy.

    Similarly, Matysiak is deciding between the University of North Texas and the University of Houston to earn a master’s in journalism.

    “I want to write professionally,” Matysiak said. “Hopefully for a magazine or publishing company.”

    While some of the information learned in fields such as history or sociology might not seem to have practical use in a career, senior Rosalind Hunt said that’s not a problem.

    “A liberal arts degree is more about learning how to think,” Hunt said. “It develops things like your critical thinking and reasoning skills.”

    Hunt, a political science and English major, will attend the University of Houston in the fall on an academic scholarship and intends to earn her joint degree in three years.

    “English is a great major for any field but especially law,” Hunt said. “A lot depends on your ability to write because much of it is paperwork. It’s not all what you see on ‘Law and Order.'”

    Michael Butler, the associate dean of AddRan, said that unlike many fields the actual material learned in the classroom is only secondary to the skills gained.

    “The biggest challenge for liberal arts majors is to take those skills and show potential employers how they can use them,” Butler said.

    And some students are choosing to gain some real-world experience before hitting the books again. Senior Luda Chuba, a political science and history major, said she plans on working for two years before pursuing graduate school and will use that time to prepare for the LSAT and gain experience in her field.

    “When they have two candidates with some of the same credentials, they’ll usually choose the candidate with the real-world work experience,” Chuba said.

    Once she does return to school, Chuba plans on earning her joint degree in international relations with the ultimate goal of someday becoming a foreign ambassador.

    So while it might be a longer time in school than many students would choose, these liberal arts majors are willing to put in the extra time to guarantee they have a career they enjoy.

    “I knew from the time I was accepted at TCU that I wanted to go to law school,” Hunt said. “It’s just a matter of finding out what you want to do and then figuring out the best path to do it.