In their study, Academically Adrift, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa came to a troubling conclusion. Examining students enrolled in a variety of colleges and universities, they found that the majority “did not demonstrate significant improvement in learning” after four years of study. In fact, they argued, these students often left the university with less aptitude for writing and reasoning than when they graduated from high school. The one notable exception, however, were those who selected a major in the liberal arts. According to Arum and Roksa, these students showed "significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study."
Such skills clearly prepare our students for a wide variety of careers. Yet at graduation, many liberal arts students believe themselves to be at a disadvantage. They are unable to explain to recruiters their knowledge of business practices; they cannot draw a direct connection between their college experience and a career in law or medicine. As you will read in this month’s newsletter, programs in SLA and Tulane are addressing these concerns, while providing our students with unique learning experiences. A new interdisciplinary minor, SLAMM, will place management skills and practices in a liberal arts perspective. Students will not only be able to speak of their knowledge of economics and accounting, but explain the political, cultural, and ethical dimensions of business practices. Alternately, those students interested in a medical career can apply to the creative premedical scholars program; if accepted they are guaranteed admission to Tulane Medical School with majors as diverse as philosophy and art history. In Tulane’s 3/3 program, future lawyers can combine three years of study as an undergraduate with three years of study in Tulane Law School. In six years, they receive both a B.A or B.S. and a J.D. degree.
We believe these programs provide incredible avenues for our students. As liberal arts students, they have mastered the critical skills outlined by Arum and Roksa; as participants in these programs, they have expanded their professional skills and interests. Upon graduation, a wide range of opportunities awaits them.