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Staff Editorial | The value of liberal arts and why we’re here

Coming off a difficult year in which students and faculty campaigned tirelessly for their vision of Mills as a liberal arts institution, The Campanil discussed the value of our liberal arts education, both personally and professionally. As our administration overhauls our curriculum and develops new programs for a “21st century education,” we took a few minutes to think about who we are as a college, and assess our collective goals and purpose as a community.

In the wake of last semester’s proposed budget cuts and curriculum restructuring, conversations about the value and purpose of a liberal arts education have been prevalent not only on the Mills campus but at many liberal arts institutions facing a similar crisis of identity. Signs insisting that Mills was “not a neoliberal business school” were plastered across campus in response to the administration’s proposed elimination of the book art and dance departments, and the addition of new programs such as data science.

Those of us with varied interests appreciate the flexibility to pursue multiple fields of study. We also feel that the flexibility of a liberal arts education can be just as important for students who are unsure of what they want to pursue as undergraduates. Staff members that are majoring in STEM fields are grateful for the freedom that Mills provides to pursue fields of study relevant to their work at The Campanil, including the English major and journalism minor.

We know from friends and classmates who are studying STEM disciplines at Mills that the emphasis liberal arts colleges often place on the humanities can provide invaluable insight into many fields, including human psychology and human history. General knowledge of these subjects is often vital for students intending to go into the medical field, which exists entirely to serve the needs of patients from extremely diverse backgrounds.

The Campanil also discussed common mindsets responsible for the idea that a liberal arts degree is “worthless,” including the capitalistic notion that an end product is necessary to indicate the value of a process or an experience. The worth of an education cannot solely be measured by the number of “marketable skills” a person has acquired. Any idea that a liberal arts degree is “worthless” probably stems from the notion that four years of writing essays on American literature or gender studies does not translate to any field of work outside of academia, a notion countered by the many successful graduates of Mills with degrees in fields such as ethnic studies or English. We feel that the most important asset of any liberal arts institution is the education of intelligent, well-rounded, compassionate citizens who will use their undergraduate experiences — and their degrees — to go forward and make a positive impact on their environments.