Thursday, May 17, 2012

Revenge of the Liberal Arts Major

That's the title of a report on a new survey of the hiring practices of 225 employers.

Referring to "those of us who got some parental grief over our college choice," the author notes that the survey is interesting for "the apparent love being shown for liberal arts majors. Thirty percent of surveyed employers said they were recruiting liberal arts types, second only to the 34 percent who said they were going after engineering and computer information systems majors. Trailing were finance and accounting majors, as only 18 percent of employers said they were recruiting targets.

"The No. 1 skill that employers are looking for are communication skills and liberal arts students who take classes in writing and speaking," said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and an expert on Generation Y. "They need to become good communicators in order to graduate with a liberal arts degree. Companies are looking for soft skills over hard skills now because hard skills can be learned, while soft skills need to be developed."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Arie Lipsky's Commencement Address

This past weekend, Ashland's graduating class got to hear that rarest of things - a really great Commencement address.  It was given by Arie Lipsky.  The son of a Holocaust survivor, a former aerospace engineer, and a former Israeli Tank commander, Mr. Lipsky's passion has always been music, and he is now the maestro of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra (as well as of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra). His speech, which was woven around several verses of "Amazing Grace", recounted the story of his father's survival in the concentration camps and of his own path to music and America.  In reminding us of the evil that men can do, he also revealed the amazing great hope that America at its best still represents. You can read an account of the speech here, but I haven't been able to find the full text anywhere.

Is the Study of History Useless?

With all the emphasis in higher education nowadays on "practical skills", "value added" courses, and so on, it is worthwhile remembering some basic truths. Here is one that crossed my desk from Brian Hamilton, CEO and Co-founder of Sageworks, a financial analysis firm:

"In preparation for a career in business, or for life generally, I can think of no more suitable academic major than history. History is the study of people, what they do, and why they do it: the perspective that's necessary for future success."
That's clear, simple, and to the point. In these ways, it reminds me of the statement by Edward Shils, distinguished service professor at the University of Chicago, that the task of the university is "the discovery and teaching of truths about serious and important things."

Spring 2012 Baccalaureate Address

Professor Jeffrey Sikkenga, from History and Political Science, gave the Baccalaureate address this year at the Spring graduation ceremonies.  It contains a nice reflection on the true meaning of leisure. Here is the talk:

Whatever Things are Noble

It is a real pleasure to be with you tonight at this wonderful event. What a great weekend for you students, and it’s wonderful to see so many of your family and friends. I’ve had a number of these students in class, and I always wonder where they got their crazy ideas – now I know.

This weekend is a time for joy when you will hear plenty of congratulations for your accomplishments; and you deserve them. But rather than praise you for what you have done and what you are gaining, I want to warn you about what you are in danger of losing. Then I want to offer a few thoughts about how you may endeavor not to lose it.

Our Scripture text this evening comes from the fourth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s "Letter to the Philippians." As many of you know, Paul writes this "Letter" from a prison in Rome to the church at Philippi, which had been particularly generous and faithful to his instruction. They cared about God’s truth and they wanted to live in its light. In other words, they had been good students. Even more, Paul says, they had become what he calls his "beloved… brethren" (Philippians 4:1).

End of Year Honors

Several graduating History and/or Political Science majors won end of year honors this year.

First of all, Caitlin Dalton was the University's Salutatorian.

Nick Granitz won the Howard Rowe Award for best Honors thesis for writing "Heracles and the Foundings of Sparta and Rome."

Finally, and by no means least, four students won the Ashbrook Scholar program's Parton Statesmanship Award for excellent theses:

Becky Brown for "A History of the Anglo-American Special Relationship"
Alyssa Bornhorst for "Noise Pollution: The Effects of Rock Music on a Liberal Education"
James Velasquez for "Boundless Vision: A Reading of Plato's Symposium"
Dantan Wernecke for "The Happy Empire: Aristotle, Publius, and the American Regime"

You can see these and the Parton Award winners from past years here.