Monthly Archives: April 2015

In the Name of Love: The Liberal Arts

LYMgpaMy first career fair experience was less than stellar. I was at a conference for college women in leadership, and becoming more and more aware of my impending entrance into the “real world” after graduation. I’d never been to a job fair before, and thought this a perfect opportunity to give it a shot. But I didn’t expect my major to count against me in this setting.

I walked through the rows of tables a few times, not really seeing anyone I was overly interested in. I finally settled on a setup with an eye-catching, colorful logo, and approached one of the recruiters with my resume in hand. As I introduced myself and explained that I was looking for a job after graduation, I watched with growing dismay as her expression clouded.

“So, why exactly are you here?” she asked, gesturing toward her table. “You’re an art history major.”

My confidence was shaken after that, and I was greeted with more or less the same response from the other recruiters I spoke with throughout the day. No matter what other skills I mentioned having, no one was interested or took me very seriously. One recruiter actually broke off my conversation mid-sentence to speak with another student behind me with a more promising resume.

What was I doing wrong? Was my lack of self-assurance that palpable? I wasn’t sure what to think. I found myself feeling more scared than ever about the future. How was I ever supposed to support myself if everyone was so dismissive, simply because of my degree?

It took me a few months to get out of this mindset. I knew my parents had been somewhat bewildered when I finally settled on Art History as my degree; my love of ancient Egyptian art had drawn me in, and by my first semester of my senior year, I was enamored with the world of art analysis, and ways art reflected or rejected societal values during the time it was created. I wouldn’t have pegged myself for an art historian during my freshman year, but I was happy.

Now, it seemed, the rest of the world didn’t agree I had made a smart decision. I had an art history degree—thus I could only discuss art. I had no other skills that could be applied to other industries. I had been reduced to my degree alone, boxed in based on the stereotype of my field held by others outside of the discipline.

choosing-a-major It took a lesson in my Research Methods class this past fall to get me thinking differently. Much of the class was career-oriented, so we talked about the job search struggle that art history majors often face when coming out of college. As I had suspected before, this isn’t a problem unique to this discipline, and it is all too common for undergraduates with Liberal Arts degrees. For one lesson, we practiced writing cover letters for any position, highlighting skills that a degree in art history enables a student to develop. These skills are by no means only applicable to the field of art history; in fact, many are desired in almost every office or place of business. What employer wouldn’t want an employee with ample experience in critical thinking and written communication? We discussed these things at length in my class, and it was very eye-opening for me.

Sadly, these negative views of Liberal Arts degrees are still prevalent enough that classroom lessons like the ones I had in Research Methods are necessary talking points for students in these degree programs. I understand how harmful this mindset is to students in Liberal Arts and Fine Arts colleges. With my English minor, I traverse both schools, and have often been asked what I can do with my degrees. It’s a question that invalidates the interests of the student in question, as well as all the hard work they are doing at school, simply because these degrees don’t lead to a single visible career path. And that is a problem that scholars and journalists have started to tackle on the national level. Articles have been written in The New York Times and Huffington Post that explain the relevance and necessity of a Liberal Arts education, and the value of these graduates in the workforce. A 2013 HuffPost Business article by Tyler Kingkade mentioned that according to one recent study, only 16% of employers said having background that applies to a specific field is the most important criterion they seek, while a majority of employers said they look for grads with both field-specific skills and a broad range of knowledge for longer-term career advancement. You can read the actual study here if you wish.

A degree does not necessarily guarantee you a spot in that field, either. There is no way to tell where your life will take you when you are fresh out of your undergrad years. Take, for example, the staff here at Towson’s Academic Advising Center. I’ve been employed there as a Student Academic Advisor for most of my undergraduate career, and actually learned a lot about how unexpected career paths can be through my interaction with the advisors there. In our office, we have individuals who have Bachelor’s degrees in everything from English to Sociology to Theatre to Political Science. Ergo, studying a discipline in college does not necessarily mean you will end up in that field. But having studied it shapes the way you view the world and communicate with others, so the skills you gained in school are still relevant throughout the course of your career.

Months ago, I would have been uncertain, maybe even ashamed, when someone brought up my degree, and how “useless” it is. But now, I can confidently say that I am in no way limited just to art analysis. I refuse to let others tell me that I will not succeed because I did not choose the sciences or a business degree. I am a creative thinker, and a skilled communicator—both of which are necessary no matter where you work. I did not select my major based on high employment rates. I chose it because I love it. And I would urge all students to do the same. If your heart lies with Astrophysics, go for it. If you have always dreamed of working on advertising campaigns, get a degree in Marketing and Advertising. And if you have always been interested in sculpture, major in Art and Design.

FamousMajors

Graduated with a Degree in the Liberal Arts

Don’t be afraid to pursue what you love in college, simply because you love it. And do not force yourself into a program just because it will lead to high-paying job once you graduate, because you will do better academically, and do better in a career, if you genuinely enjoy what you are doing. There are merits to every program. Be the person that changes someone’s mind about the value of a Liberal Arts degree.

Stephanie Andrews
Student Advisor
Academic Advising Center

Basketball, You, and Peer Review

TONI L. SANDYS / THE WASHINGTON POST

We just finished up March and college basketball is no longer everywhere, all the time. However, for a non-insignificant portion of Americans, the work for March Madness was actually done at the end of February setting up brackets. Some people were influenced by their home states (Woo, Terps!) or their alma mater (Woo, IU!), but with 64 teams from all over the country, you had to have been watching an awful lot of basketball to create a bracket based solely on your own personal knowledge.

Enter the basketball analysts.  These are the folks who live and breathe the sport and are the absolute experts.  These are the people that break down the intricacies of each match up: the style each team plays, the probabilities of an upset or a blowout, the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player.  They are often wrong, but they are right significantly more often than someone who isn’t paid to think about these things every second of the day.

This is because they are experts in their field – they are authorities. But, if you are going to the game and want to know where in town to eat dinner or how to get from a hotel to the stadium they are not the people you ask. If you are writing a paper on March Madness marketing and why it works, they are also not the people you cite. For the former, you might ask a local, who is an expert on their town. For the latter, you would look for sports marketing authorities. As expert as they might be at understanding college basketball stats, there’s no guarantee that they have the knowledge to answer those questions.

This is a concept that I like to call “situational authority.” Simply put, the authorities on a given topic are going to vary depending on the topic. And the specific definition of what it means to be an authority will also vary by topic. But, then, how do you know who the authorities are? Regardless of the topic, a good authority will be able to:

  1. Back up their opinion with evidence
  2. Tell you where they got their information
  3. Have relevant credentials
  4. Have the respect and support of other authorities

Paying attention to situational authority is all about combining a healthy cynicism about when people call themselves authorities with an understanding of the work and background that makes an authority. It’s about being able to look at a situation and asking yourself whose opinion and work on this subject should be most trusted.

TV Commercial – AT&T March Madness Legends: “Bracket Curls”

TV Commercial – AT&T March Madness Legends: “Bracket Curls”

So, let’s take our basketball pundit working on ESPN and talking about the March Madness matchups. They will tell you how each team has performed in certain situations in the past (#1) and probably provide some footage or cite some statistics (#2). More often than not they are a former coach or player, but at the very least have a proven history of knowing basketball really well (#3). And ESPN is the respected outlet for sports news and has given this person the stamp of approval for them to be on their show (#4).

But if you change the focus to marketing, and understanding how to market basketball to viewers and non-viewers, you want someone who doesn’t just know basketball, but understands marketing too. The situation has changed, so our pundits are no longer experts. What you want here is a marketing professional or scholar.

When your professor says that they want you to use peer-reviewed journal articles, what they are really saying is that they want you to use sources your professor recognizes as authoritative in your scholarly situation. When scholars do work, they might consult non-scholars here and there, but the people that they consider the authorities are other scholars. The peer review process is meant to ensure that a scholar does appropriate research for their argument (#1), cites properly (#2), and has studied the topic properly (#3) before an article gets published in a respected peer-reviewed journal (#4). For more information on peer review check out a video on scholarly v. popular resources, peer review in 3 minutes, or this PDF guide on “What is Peer Review.”

To summarize: Uncle Joe might have lots of opinions about your March Madness bracket, but I’m going with ESPN. ESPN might have lots of opinions about what Uncle Joe wants to see, but Uncle Joe is the expert on Uncle Joe.   ESPN and Uncle Joe might both have lots of opinions about the psychology of March Madness viewers, but I’m going with a peer-reviewed psychology journal over them both.

Megan Browndorf
Research & Instruction Librarian
Cook Library

Feeling Stuck? Your Ticket to RIO Awaits!

rio_de_janeiro_wide_01

Ever feel overwhelmed by your thoughts and feelings? Does frustration or worry ever cause you to avoid activities or experiences? If so, you are definitely not alone. All of us struggle at times with painful feelings or thoughts that can get in the way of us fully experiencing all that life has to offer. As a student, there are many ways in which you might notice these tendencies. You might feel so anxious about a class that you avoid going to it, or so overwhelmed by conflict with a friend that you stop hanging out together. You might feel so uncertain about your major or career that it’s hard to even imagine starting to explore your options.

At the Counseling Center, we are offering a new service that directly targets these issues. This 3-session workshop helps you to understand yourself better and make more conscious decisions about your behaviors to help you maximize your potential for success and fulfillment. The workshop is not about making your problems go away. It’s more about changing the way that they affect your life. When we are able to reorient ourselves in how we understand and respond to problems, we are better able to make healthy choices in our lives. The workshop is called RIORecognition, Insight, Openness.

The first session focuses on RECOGNITION. Recognition is about taking time to notice and identify our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and when or how we may be stuck. We practice looking at our experiences in an accepting way, without judgment. Recognition is like looking at a map and figuring out where you are now, which is important if you want to be able to make decisions about where you want to go next.

The second session focuses on INSIGHT. In this session, we learn more about our internal experiences and their purpose. For example, if you touch something that is hot, you feel a painful burning sensation. The purpose of the pain is to alert you that something is amiss and needs your attention. Similarly, understanding what our internal experiences are trying to tell us can help us get unstuck.

Finally, the third session focuses on OPENNESS. Openness is about self-acceptance, letting yourself be where you are right now, and also allowing yourself to move forward in desired directions. Change is helpful when we want to adjust something that is outside of us. Openness is helpful when we are experiencing uncomfortable thoughts or feelings inside of us. We can learn to accept the discomfort and at the same time commit to a valuable course of action.

We welcome you to contact the Counseling Center at 410-704-2512 to ask about the RIO workshop. Also, visit our mindfulness webpage for lots of great resources related to these strategies and skills: http://www.towson.edu/counseling/resources/mindfulness.asp

Dr. Mollie Herman, PhD
Associate Director / Training Director
The Counseling Center

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