A term that I have heard since I was a child – but not in a positive way.
My mother and a few of her siblings received an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from a community college in New York City after I was born and have always said that it was a loss: “No haga eso porque es una pérdida de tiempo.”
They would have specialized in something specific, something that they were passionate about, rather than following a suggestion that was seen as appropriate for those who had just immigrated to the United States.
I remember Mami always helping me with my math homework well into high school and trying to figure out why she did not pursue something having to deal with numbers – turns out a dream of hers was to be an accountant.
As I began the college application process (fun fact: I sent in my decision to Colgate University exactly 5 years ago today), my high school counselor as well as my program counselor both suggested that I focus on liberal arts colleges.
I wanted to say no immediately as I thought back to my mother’s college experience.
However, there must have been a reason why these experienced counselors made the suggestion.
As I began my research, I saw that these liberal arts colleges tended to be on the smaller side with an emphasis on taking classes across multiple departments and disciplines.
The size of these schools seemed like a dream come true since I was used to being in a class with about 38 other girls from the 7th grade until my last year of high school.
The notion of taking classes in a wide range of departments also stood out to me – I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do after college.
My career choices had consisted of the following: doctor, Miami Heat dancer, Olivia Benson from ‘SVU.’ sports agent, and the list goes on.
Being able to take classes with different professors regarding different subjects is exactly what I wanted.
I wanted college to be a time where the academia I was surrounded by would help me decide on a career path (along with the students I was surrounded by).
Thankfully, after convincing my mother that I was attending a liberal arts college and not getting a liberal arts degree, I decided on Colgate, and I do not regret the liberal arts experience whatsoever – it was exactly what I needed.
Although I was a sociology and Spanish double major, I also took classes in the religion, economics, theater, English, political science, women’s studies, Caribbean, psychology, mathematics, philosophy, and geography departments.
So many of my classes crossed between departments, and I was able to meet other students and professors I probably would not have met had I gone to a school where you were obligated to have some sense of your future and enter with a specialized field in mind.
As I entered the work of employment, I realized how valuable my liberal arts education truly was: I learned how to be creative in my theater classes, how to communicate in my political science classes, how to think about others in my sociology classes, how to write efficiently in my English classes, and so much more that words simply could not do justice.
There is a need to know more than just technical skills once you reach that point in your life.
Colgate University, this may seem like a love letter to you, but thank you for allowing me to explore subjects that I never thought I would have the chance to.
Thank you for allowing me to get to meet students with a range of different interests.
Thank you for pushing me to love sociology and the Spanish culture.
Thank you for helping me to realize I want to be a lawyer and help those that do not have a voice.
Thank you liberal arts.
You do matter, especially in this new age we find ourselves in.
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Cover Photo Credit: Roman Boed/Flickr (CC by 2.0)