In recent years, the news media, politicians, and educators have encouraged students to be primary in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and math. News reports emphasize that this is where the jobs and the money are.
But don’t be too quick to count the liberal arts out. Recent research is confirming what Charleston Southern alumni and current students have known all along. Fascinating new studies of the benefits of a liberal arts education are beginning to make the news.
Take the “South Carolina Projected Job Openings by Job Skill Needed” report, released by S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce, Occupational Projections Program, 2016-2026, which lists the top skills needed in the workplace. Topping the list are: active listening, speaking, reading comprehension, social perceptiveness, critical thinking, and writing.”
“All those skills are specifically taught in the required communication course at Charleston Southern,” said Dr. Dan Fultz, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He points to the most significant problem people have when working with others — the inability to communicate. The liberal arts core required of all Charleston Southern graduates reinforces critical thinking, problem-solving, speaking, listening, and writing.
George Anders, author of You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a “Useless” Liberal Arts Education, makes the case that liberal arts graduates have what it takes to make it in the job market. In a digital world where everyone is glued to their screens; knowing how to interact with others is crucial. Anders writes, “When the Association of American Colleges and Universities asked employers recently to list the most important skills college graduates should possess, strong speaking skills showed up at the very top.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s recently released the report, “The Economic Benefits and Costs of a Liberal Arts Education,” points out the misconceptions about liberal arts graduates. Scott Jaschik’s article about the foundation’s report in Inside Higher Ed, said, “The study makes no claims that liberal arts grads out-earn those in, say, engineering. But the report says the claims that a liberal arts degree isn’t worth its cost or will hurt a graduate’s career prospects prove untrue. Specifically, the report says attending a liberal arts college for most students leads to meaningful economic mobility.”
“The Charleston Metro Talent Demand” report for 2017-2022 lists 12 occupations with the highest percentage of growth in the area. Of those 12 occupations, Charleston Southern University offers degree programs that directly relate to nine of them. These are degrees such as computer science, cybersecurity, project management, nursing, physician assistant studies, human resource management, education, financial management, and in the creation process, engineering.
Charleston Southern also makes a strong showing in degrees that correlate to the “Fastest Growing Occupations in South Carolina,” released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with degree programs in physician assistant studies, software developers and applications, mental health counselors, mathematicians, nursing instructors and postsecondary teachers, and in the creation process, a physical therapy program.
While many of these areas are STEM-related, the CSU graduate possesses a firm grounding in the humanities through the Liberal Arts Core that all undergraduates complete. Employers are finding the skills needed to navigate today’s business world are lacking in many strictly STEM-trained graduates. Where are they turning to find those with the skill to articulate the big picture to engineers, computer technicians, etc.? They are turning to graduates trained in liberal arts.
Stephen Slappey ’15, Co-owner of Creative Consulting, said, “As a business owner, it is very important to hire not just qualified employees but ones that will have the right mindset and attitude for the job. After many rounds of hiring, there is one rule that we always abide by here at Creative Consulting. You can teach anyone the tricks of your trade. You can train someone to do exactly what you need them to do at their job. What you can’t teach are soft skills and the drive and hunger to do their very best at what you need them to do. We have hired many employees from Charleston Southern, and without a doubt, each of their graduates, especially the ones that have gone through their internship program, have those two necessary skills in spades. I always start my hiring process with an email to Charleston Southern University.”
Dr. Todd Ashby, dean of the CSU College of Science and Mathematics, is a STEM advocate, but he also advocates for training in the liberal arts. He said, “I strongly believe every student should be grounded in the liberal arts. Every student should be introduced to the greatest things said, written and done (as in the case of the sciences). Also, liberal arts education teaches a student to think critically, reason, and find answers for themselves. These are perhaps the most important skills we can instill in a student and will prove invaluable to, among others, the scientist or mathematician.”