Thirty plus years out from college graduation, I can now say with some certainty that very few of us clearly see the path on which life will take us. Perhaps we know the career we would like to pursue, but we can’t anticipate all the twists and turns that a life well lived generally takes. Every day, week, and year we make small and large decisions that impact how our lives unfold. Over the years, making those decisions with a liberal arts education background has served me well.
I am not sure how I would have defined a liberal arts education prior to enrolling at Gettysburg College—that was simply too long ago to remember! But as I reflect on my time at Gettysburg as well as the landmarks of my personal and professional life over the past 30 years, I have come to define a liberal arts education as follows: an education that results in an ability to listen, to research, to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to behave ethically.
A liberal arts education exposes us to a world that has
become increasingly global and teaches us how to interact with,
collaborate with, and appreciate individuals and societies from around
Using these tools to guide me, I chose to become a single mother and adopt a daughter from Vietnam. Because I could think outside the box, I felt empowered to pursue a nontraditional route in creating my family.
These same tools allowed me to thrive at Goldman Sachs—but not because I came to Goldman understanding the ins and outs of financial models or markets. Rather, my success at the firm and subsequent naming as a partner in 2002 was due to my appetite for learning and a desire to do great work—skills that I learned and cultivated at Gettysburg.
As our nation’s economy continues to recover from the 2008 financial crises, we have all heard the call to arms to reform higher education and speculation as to whether college graduates can find “good” jobs. How can a liberal arts education—an education that, in its very essence, does not target a vocation—help with that goal?
A liberal arts education exposes us to a world that has become increasingly global and teaches us how to interact with, collaborate with, and appreciate individuals and societies from around the world.
A liberal arts education teaches us how to access and digest an ever-changing pool of information—to listen, to consider others’ perspectives, and to make good decisions.
A liberal arts education challenges us to think outside of the box.
In a nation that is bruised and striving to mend itself after an economic crisis, that faces unprecedented energy challenges, and that is brought face-to-face with global conflict like never before—a nation that requires leaders and thinkers and doers—what better preparation is there than the liberal arts?