What can I do with a Liberal Education?
Some students like the Honors Program courses but worry that a liberal education is not practical. In fact, however, Honors Program graduates have gone on to careers in many different fields, including law, business, education, psychology, journalism, criminal justice, computer science, medicine, and government service. Liberal education provides a set of intellectual skills and mental habits that can be employed in the most diverse settings. Below we give a few examples (and there are more) of the uses of a liberal education.
- First of all, many students originally come to the Honors Program to help fulfill specific career goals, yet when they leave they feel they have also received something more valuable. One graduate writes: “My four years of study in the Honors Program provided me with an exceptional education, both personally and intellectually. I came away from my college experience as a more enlightened individual, with a heightened sense of awareness and increased self-confidence.” Many students value the chance to think and talk about what sort of life is worth having, as they begin to make important life decisions on their own. As one recent graduate writes: “the questions we struggled with in the great books program remain integral to my search for truth and meaning—what is virtue? What is the good? What is the highest expression of human existence? The biggest legacy of the liberal arts is being able to see the world as it lives and breathes and being a better person for it.” Liberal education helps you make a life in addition to helping you make a living.
- Many Honors Program graduates have been pre-law students. Law is a study for which the program is ideally suited. One law school graduate writes, “during my first year of law school, the Socratic method was the sole means of instruction. Although this method of teaching intimidated many of my classmates, I was comfortable speaking in class due to the experience I had gained in the Honors Program.” Another lawyer writes, “I realized after I got to Law School the advantages I gained by coming to the Honors Program for my undergraduate education. For example, in legal education you read cases — the original sources, ones other people have looked at for the last 150 years — and try to figure them out. And that’s exactly what we had been doing in Honors courses.”
- As the pace of change in business increases, the ability to learn on one’s own becomes increasingly important. Life-long learning is no longer a luxury; it is a business necessity. If you want a career in business your best bet is to acquire a mix of specialized business knowledge and general skills. Specialized training will help you land your first job, while your long-term career prospects depend heavily on your ability to read, write, speak, listen, analyze and think—just what one acquires through liberal education.
- Honors Program graduates have pursued graduate studies in a variety of fields including psychology, education, philosophy, political science, and public policy. Generally students report that the Honors Program has prepared them well for the rigorous demands of graduate study. One writes, “I found that I was ahead of most of my fellow graduate students, since in the Honors Program I had read books that most of the other students had only heard about.”
- Pre-med students who combine liberal studies with biology or chemistry degrees have found that their breadth of background is attractive to medical schools. As one medical school puts it: “Often the physician’s ability to communicate effectively will determine the degree of success in the diagnosis and management of a patient’s health. Communication is a two-way process and involves the ability to listen perceptively, as well as to speak and write clearly.” Liberal education thus becomes an important ingredient in pre-medical training
- Honors Program students have the opportunity to pursue careers in government and public service as well. KSU is located in the capital of Kentucky, providing exceptional access to state offices and state employment. Several of our students have also obtained internships in Washington, DC, some of which have led to permanent positions with state or federal governments.
- Recently concerns have arisen about the adequacy of teachers’ background in general knowledge. An Honors core curriculum of liberal studies courses accompanying a degree in education would give any student a significant advantage in meeting the increasingly important standards for teachers. One former student also notes the value of the program’s approach for prospective teachers: “I’ll be finishing my master’s degree [in education] … and I want to thank you so much for your wonderful teaching methods. The way you taught me is the way we are now being told to teach.”