- 93 percent of respondents reported "a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate's] undergraduate major."
- More than 9 in 10 stressed the importance of demonstrating ethical judgment and integrity, intercultural skills, and the capacity for continued new learning.
- Employers want more colleges to emphasize five key areas: critical thinking, complex problem solving, written and oral communication skills, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
- Employers favor graduates who know how to conduct research using evidence-based analysis and to apply that learning in real-world settings.
- The majority of employers agree that having both field-specific knowledge and skills and a broad range of skills and knowledge is most important for recent college graduates to achieve long-term career success.
If you ask most liberal arts leaders what we teach, we will say some of the following: critical thinking, analyzing from multiple perspectives, creative problem solving, understanding the social and historical context of an idea, working with others different from yourself, expressing yourself clearly, using technology, acquiring ethical discernment, and asking better questions.
In his 2011 book, New York Times columnist Adam Bryant listed what he learned from interviewing CEOs. The qualities they look for are:
- passionate curiosity
- battle-hardened confidence
- team smarts
- a simple mind-set -- meaning the ability to focus and present concisely
I like to quote a Marlboro alumna who once declared to a group of parents: "Marlboro grads don't just take jobs, we create jobs!" While that may not be entirely reassuring to students who want certainty in an uncertain time, a liberal arts degree empowers graduates to create their own way.
Students should think about their whole lives, not only as employees but as members of the human family and as citizens. They will benefit greatly by committing themselves to the college years of curiosity, inquiry, and discovery. It will "pay off" to master research methods and new knowledge, and learn to think beyond disciplinary boundaries, developing capacities for creativity and written and oral expression.
What do you do with a liberal arts degree? You adapt to economic change, yes. You also live a richer life, full of creativity and commitment. You "do" a job; you also "become" a person engaged with the world: the kind of "educated citizenry" Thomas Jefferson knew would be needed to protect our democracy.