Liberal Arts and STEM: Happily Ever After?



Pamela Weinberg
Twitter: @pamelaweinberg
Blogs from Pamela Weinberg.

A recent New York Times headline stopped me cold. It was entitled: “A Rising Call to Foster STEM Fields, and Decrease Liberal Arts Funding.” The article spoke of a handful of state governors who were suggesting that students majoring in liberal arts would not receive state funding for their education and that only those students “educated in fields seen as important to the economy” would benefit from funding.

As a liberal arts major and a career coach who believes in the value of a liberal arts education, this was stunning. Of course teaching students “hard” skills is important. Nobody would argue that teaching undergraduate students how to code is a bad idea. However, there is much evidence that hard skills alone don’t make for a successful employee. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, a study conducted by USC’s Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism found that “Future leaders must be strong in quantitative, technical, and business skills. But to advance in their careers, they also need to be good strategic thinkers and must have strong social and communications skills.”

The WSJ article made the case for the importance of continuing to offer a liberal arts curriculum to students. The author makes the critical point that liberal arts and STEM needn’t be an “either/or” proposition. A blog speaks of the many smaller college and universities, such as Rochester Institute of Technology, which have created cross-disciplinary or integrated curriculums, that require STEM students to complete a general education program. At the same time, liberal arts schools like Lafayette University are beginning to reform their curriculums to keep them more relevant.

Critics of liberal arts education will make the case that majoring in a liberal arts field doesn’t guarantee a job with high earnings. This is true. No major can guarantee that. However, some of our country’s most successful and well-paid CEOs majored in liberal arts disciplines: Mark Parker, President and CEO of Nike (political science), Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks (communications) and Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company (television and radio)

One of the tenets of a liberal arts education is practicing critical thinking. According to the WSJ article “Technical and business skills can get graduates in the door, but an ability to think critically and communicate effectively can play an equal, if not larger role in determining success.” It would seem then, that students of all majors would benefit from a mix of courses that are STEM based and liberal arts based.
I would love to hear your opinions on this—please let me know how you are advising your liberal arts majors in their career searches.

Discuss, Share Critical Recruiting Issues at Employer Regulatory Summit

Shawn VanDerziel

Guest Blogger Shawn VanDerziel
Vice-President, Human Resources & Administration, The Field Museum
NACE Past President (2009-10)

When NACE announced that it was organizing an Employer Regulatory Summit, I immediately knew that I needed to attend.  This powerful event will focus on what’s happening in Washington D.C. and the critical issues that could directly impact the university relations and recruitment profession.

In order for recruiters to exceed in their jobs, we need to think strategically about what’s happening in the world around us and be keenly aware of what’s ahead.  That’s why the issues being covered at the Summit are so important: immigration, STEM, healthcare reform, tax reform, and recruitment of individuals with disabilities.

Once we understand the issues, we can begin to devise world strategies that will advance our recruiting agendas.  The hiring managers we work with will directly benefit from our knowledge as we partner with them to ensure that all obstacles to recruiting and placing top talent are minimized, allowing us to get a leg-up on our competition.

Of the issues being covered, I am particularly interested in hearing more about and engaging in dialogue around immigration reform and STEM graduates.  Having access to qualified talent in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math is of critical importance to my organization.  How we are going to develop future talent in these areas and how we are going to recruit and retain the talent is a national challenge we must solve together.

For me, probably one of the most compelling reasons to attend is the ability to hear from and interact with colleagues from both similar and different industries.  It’s always helpful to me to hear perspectives from colleagues outside of my organization.  I appreciate hearing how others are dealing with similar situations and hearing their fresh ideas.

There is so much we can learn from each other. Let’s all be in one place discussing strategic issues popping in D.C.

I hope to see many of you there.

Get details on the summit and register for the Employer Regulatory Summit at