By Daniel Myers
You just registered for your classes: English 101, Psyc 101, History 101, and Bio 101. You’re not even remotely interested in those subjects but you’re required to take the “geneds”. The first question that comes to your mind during the first few days is, “When am I ever going to use this?” The semester goes on. You do the homework, you take the exams, you get a grade, you move on. You go home and think, “Now, finally, I’m one step closer to getting into the real classes that are part of my major.”
I get you. I know what it was like. The feeling was mutual for me. The feeling now however, is no longer mutual. Why? Your question is important, and you certainly aren’t the only student asking it. So I’m going to give you the answer right now: making cross-discipline connections spawns creativity, and vice versa.
My main point here is that connectivity and creativity are not only highly valuable, but will be absolutely necessary in solving the complex problems facing our world. This necessary creativity can only be achieved by studying a variety of subjects and having a diverse set of experiences i.e. getting a liberal arts education.
To explain what I mean, I’ll use my own story:
As of now, I am a senior chemistry major, but I am also minoring in German and business. At first glance, studying such a wide variety of subjects might seem to be unfocused and detrimental to my understanding of my major. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It is only because I study so many things that I am able to better understand not only my major, but the world. I can’t tell you how many deeper insights I’ve had in and out of my chemistry classes thanks to studying another language (not to mention the fact that a number of things were discovered and named by German scientists, which has only made learning chemistry easier). There are a number of studies and articles on how learning a foreign language strengthens cognitive development and performance. One good source of information is the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages website, where a great deal of research is presented that has shown positive links between bilingualism and problem solving.
So, now you might be saying: “Okay, so studying more diversely makes me more creative. How does that help me get hired?”
In writing this article, I had the chance to interview one of my good friends, and roommate, Dave Dermon (C’16). I wanted to see if anyone had the same experience I did. He put it simply, saying, “A liberal arts education has shown me how many doors there are after graduation. Had I not taken classes in such a wide variety of disciplines, I would not have even thought outside my own mental box.” It’s true, According to a recent article in the Economist titled too. In familiarizing yourself with multiple fields of study, you have the possibility of “wearing multiple hats,” allowing you to have a more flexible career and increasing your chances of being selected. Due to my diversity of studies, I have not only been able to perform and present research for the chemistry department, but also have attended business programs at Stanford University and traveled to Germany with the German-American Chamber of Commerce. Had I only been studying one of those subjects, there would have been almost no chance of me doing all that and more.
So, why is all this important? In the future, some popular careers will inevitably start to become obsolete. “The onrushing wave,” jobs in accounting, auditing, and real estate sales are likely to be reduced or altered in the coming decades. This same process of replacement by automation can be seen throughout history as well, especially during the Industrial Revolution when factory workers had to find new work after they were replaced by machines. These workers then had to learn a new skill set to try and find work. With that being the case, you’re doing yourself a huge favor in the long run by investing in yourself and developing a variety of useful skill sets now instead of later.
So, without further adieu, go out there, dive into the complex depths of human knowledge and start educating and diversifying yourself. You’ll be glad you did.