EDITOR’S NOTE: WHAT’S THE VALUE OF A LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION?

William Holder ’75, editor.

William Holder ’75, editor

I’ve been musing on the question since President Obama, in his recently announced proposal to rate colleges and link those ratings to federal aid, indicated that the earnings of graduates would figure into the proposed rating scheme.

All three of our children attended Wesleyan and two graduated from here. One is a full-time mom, one is a Marine-turned-policeman, and the third is a social worker. No one would suspect them of making lots of money. Should this be a strike against Wesleyan? Even asking the question seems absurd, especially at an institution that places a high value on public service. Surely we want institutions such as Wesleyan to graduate investment bankers and social workers.

It’s not my intent to dwell on absurdities creeping into our national dialog about higher education. I’d like instead to point out that there is an entirely different answer to the value of a liberal arts education at Wesleyan to be found on our THIS IS WHY site (accessible through Wesleyan’s homepage), where we are collecting stories from alumni about why Wesleyan matters in their lives. Here are just a few of their words:

Liz W. Garcia ’99: 

“My Wesleyan education is with me every day in decisions I make about my career, about parenting, about what sort of citizen I am in the world. Specifically, Wesleyan and my American Studies major and my classes with Richard Slotkin about how the American story has been scripted in film gave me the specific tools to recognize how progressive values are perpetuated or—in more instances—challenged by popular culture. I am in the business of making popular culture [in television and film]. So I wear a heightened awareness when I create, and I carry and treasure my responsibility to that awareness. I don’t operate in stereotypes or sexism.”

Jesse S. Sommer ’05:

“Wesleyan University defines the improbable. In turn, here am I: by day, a paratrooper and Judge Advocate with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division; by night, a lyricist performing in the realms of YouTube. It was at Wesleyan that I learned how to chart my own course, that I discovered the unbounded array of possible paths, and that I developed the eager curiosity to travel them all.… At Wesleyan University, my imagination came to life… and that’s why life makes me so happy.”

Kika Stump ’94:

“‘Why?’ is why.

WES_this_is_why_marks“Wesleyan celebrates, challenges and builds the why tendency in us. From our early years of asking why every five minutes to our contemplative years of old age, we ask why. At Wesleyan, I learned the nuances, techniques and importance of this question as well as the fact that the best answer to that question…is often another question.”

We’d like to hear why a Wesleyan education has made a difference in your life. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me (and include a photo of yourself). We’ll post entries on the site. Thank you.—William Holder ’75, editor, wholder@wesleyan.edu