There is a great deal of discussion going on now regarding the rising cost of higher education and the value of a college degree as it relates to this thing we call “work.” I personally find this debate healthy and one that ultimately will make the collegiate experience stronger in the end. It also is the perfect starting point to talk about the value of a liberal arts education and the collegiate experience in general, which for me occurred at Ohio Wesleyan University—a small liberal arts institution in Delaware, Ohio.
During my time at Ohio Wesleyan, I can say with confidence that I didn’t learn a specific job skill or a trade, nor did I come to discover the blueprint for what it takes to be strong at sales, how to land my dream job, or even how to become a CEO. Instead, what my professors taught me was immensely more valuable than I could have ever imagined during those formative years of my life.
They taught me how to think critically.
I find myself drawing upon my liberal arts experience where I first learned to think critically—and that alone has paid huge dividends throughout my professional career and in my interactions outside the workplace.
As a politics and philosophy major, I was exposed to various ideologies and ways of thinking that challenged my personal beliefs, experiences, and assumptions. I was particularly close to two of my philosophy professors, both of whom encouraged me to think broadly and more inclusively and to use the time on the university campus to explore new ideas. I learned that there are many ways to look at an issue or problem, and that your awareness of or blindness to these important subtleties and nuances can significantly influence any issue, big or small. That has proved to be an incredibly valuable insight.
What I would adopt as my own practice over time was an approach and mindset to problem solving: Be open-minded, define a logical process, understand the underlying premise, and challenge the assumptions. This discipline that I honed during my undergraduate years still affects how I look at the world—and the world of work—today.
It may not be obvious that a dual degree in politics and philosophy would lead me on a career path that included consulting for major retail brands, converting market research and strategy into actionable plans; earning a law degree and becoming a corporate attorney practicing securities law; or becoming the founder and CEO of a fast-growing healthcare company.
But for anyone who is looking to connect the dots, I can assure you they are there.
In every professional role I’ve held, I find myself called upon to be a problem solver, to challenge the assumptions, and to look at problems from different points of view to inform a logical course of action.
In that sense, I find myself drawing upon my liberal arts experience where I first learned to think critically—and that alone has paid huge dividends throughout my professional career and in my interactions outside the workplace.