The value of the small liberal arts school became clear from the beginning of my higher education experience. I started at a very large state university. After a year and a half, I felt no closer to the goal of graduation. When I saw an opportunity to transfer, I jumped at the chance.
Class sizes of 50 to 500 students became class sizes of 5 to 15. Every class was taught by a professor, not a teaching assistant. My faculty advisor was one of my regular professors, not a randomly assigned individual in the department. He knew me and was able to suggest a curriculum that would best serve my goals. At the big university, I saw my advisor only briefly every semester and just long enough to get a signature on my requested schedule. Living on a small campus left more time to study and pursue extra-curricular activities. On the old campus, free time was spent traveling as much as two miles between classes, standing in long lines to register for classes and pay tuition, or searching for parking.
The liberal arts curriculum equipped me well for my career… It isn’t enough to have a single set of skills...success requires managing many disciplines.
I found residential campus life was tailor made for success. The classrooms, library, and labs were a short walk from the dormitory. The small student population meant that it was easy to connect with classmates. Campus activities and organizations also were easy to find and effective. They afforded many opportunities to develop and practice the leadership skills needed after graduation.
The liberal arts curriculum equipped me well for my career. I am one of the many people in aviation who are part of a small organization. Like small businesses everywhere, it isn’t enough to have a single set of skills like flying or fixing airplanes. Success requires managing many disciplines, such as customer relations, advertising, contracting, and accounting. Although I didn’t have classes in all of these disciplines, I did learn how to analyze problems, recognize opportunities, research options, and make and execute plans.
After graduation, the value of the liberal arts education can be difficult to calculate, because many benefits are intangible. How often is a candidate hired because she communicates well? How many times is a promotion given because a person has critical thinking skills that the competitor doesn’t? How often does a pilot avoid a pitfall because his flight instructor was able to relate a complex idea in a memorable way? It is difficult to quantify the answers, but I am certain it happens every day.