Securing America’s Future: The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Katie Falkenberg

Staff Photographer, Los Angeles Times
Warren Wilson College, Class of 2003
 
Going into college, I had many interests and ideas about what I wanted to major in, but I was unsure which major I was the most passionate about. I also was uncertain what career I wanted to pursue after graduating.
 
Studying at Warren Wilson and attending a liberal arts college allowed me to explore all of my interests and beyond. With class requirements in different areas of study, I also discovered new territories that I would become extremely passionate about, such as sustainable agriculture and environmental studies.
 
By having the opportunity to experience a wide range of studies, I was able to discover my true passion for visual arts and my desire to pursue a career in that field. Through various art classes I was able to hone my artistic skills and develop my personal vision. Learning and exploring other areas of study as well has been invaluable for my career. This combination enhanced the foundation of my job as a photojournalist.
 
Attending a liberal arts school not only allowed me to discover and develop my passion, but it also prepared me for my particular job in ways I couldn’t have imagined at the time. By being able to enroll in such a wide range of classes, I was exposed to an incredible amount of knowledge and topics, and it made me more curious about the world around me. This has helped me immensely in my job as a photojournalist; it has made me more aware and conscious of different stories to document and report. In my career I have worked on human interest stories as well as stories about agriculture, the environment, health care, and the economy. A broad course of study encouraged the development of a broader world view.
 
Part of Warren Wilson College’s motto is that one person has the ability to change the world. Whether it was through classes, community events, or through the volunteer and work aspects of the educational triad, that belief and idea was cultivated in me on a daily basis during my four years there. My desire to make a difference in the world was nurtured there, and it has only gotten stronger with the passage of time. Some of the greatest responsibilities we have as photojournalists are to raise awareness about unknown issues, tell the stories of people who may not have a chance to be heard otherwise, create understanding across cultural lines, spark dialogue and perhaps action for change that might be needed, all through our photographs. A liberal arts education prepared me for, and raised my desire for, seeking out and shedding light on important issues and stories—whether they are in my community or overseas.
 
I can honestly say that attending Warren Wilson College and receiving a liberal arts education made me into the person I am today—both personally and professionally.
 

Katie Falkenberg is a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Times. Raised in Ohio, Falkenberg began her career in Washington, DC, covering the White House and Capitol Hill as a freelance photographer. Prior to joining the staff of the Los Angeles Times, she was a staff photographer at the Washington Times, where she began to focus on documenting contemporary issues in America. Her passion is working on issue-related projects, and she considers it a great privilege and responsibility to tell the stories of people who may not have a chance to be heard otherwise.
 
Falkenberg was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy award for Domestic Photography, the Hillman Prize in Photojournalism, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for Short Form Video, and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for Feature Photography, for her work documenting three southern California families struggling from the lasting effects of the recession. Her photography and multimedia work also have been recognized by Pictures of the Year International, the White House News Photographers Association, and the National Press Photographers Association. Her short film, Uninsured in the Mississippi Delta, won the Human Rights award at the Media That Matters film festival.
 
Falkenberg graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2003 with a degree in studio art.