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Securing America’s Future:

The Power of Liberal Arts Education

Esther Mackintosh

President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils
Morningside College (IA), Class of 1969
Esther Mackintosh is president of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, which is a membership association that supports state humanities councils and strives to create greater awareness of the humanities in public and private life. Mackintosh joined the staff of the federation in 1986 and has been president since 2004.

She has a doctorate in American literature from Kansas State University. While finishing work on her dissertation, Mackintosh worked as a copy editor and eventually editor-in-chief of Horticulture magazine in Boston. She later held the position of senior editor at Science 80, a science magazine for lay audiences that was published from 1980 to 1986 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Mackintosh also spent two years as a script writer in the audiovisual department of King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

She received her BA from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1969.
The education I received at Morningside College gave me a way of looking at the world that I wouldn’t have received without a liberal arts education. I grew up in a very tiny town and attended a small high school.  While I received a good educational foundation, what I didn’t get was strong encouragement to think critically and independently.
 
This changed significantly when I arrived at Morningside, where the faculty challenged me from the beginning. “What do you think?” was a question put to me regularly, and while it was unnerving in the beginning, it shook me out of some comfortable patterns. Morningside was, in the most positive sense, like living in a small town. I couldn’t be invisible, and there was no place to hide. Professors always took notice and knew when I wasn’t challenging myself.
 

The interaction with professors that was possible for me at a liberal arts college helped advance my thinking and modeled for me a way of dealing with others in a professional situation.

 
Looking at behaviors and cultures that were new to me pervaded my college education. Without my experience at Morningside, I’m sure I wouldn’t have dared to venture as far afield as I have over the course of my career. I lived and worked for two years in Saudi Arabia, for example, where my friends and colleagues came from Great Britain, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and Somalia, among other countries. I would not have been able to embrace this experience as fully, I’m convinced, without my Morningside education.
 
The interaction with professors that was possible for me at a liberal arts college like Morningside also helped advance my thinking and modeled for me a way of dealing with others in a professional situation. In my current position as a nonprofit executive, I still remember and draw on specifics of these exchanges and relationships. They provided me with a model of productive and civil interactions. This has helped me professionally and personally as I have moved through my career and taken on new challenges.
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