Over the past decade or so, the feverish push for STEM-related skills has led to an increase in science majors who are driven to believe that only these practical studies will help them obtain jobs. Students now even face discouragement from studying the humanities for fear that they will not be able to find employment opportunities after graduation. In fact, the proportion of humanities majors in the United States has decreased from 20 percent to 5 percent from 1960 to 2015. However, a recently developed program at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada argues that its humanities curriculum prepares students to become better CEOs than science and business majors that are ordinarily considered to be more “practical,” according to a report from the Atlantic. While technical or humanities studies alone do not adequately serve students, a combination of these studies would properly prepare them for the workforce.
McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business created this program for people who wish to be future corporate leaders, according to the Atlantic. The school’s research concluded that employers were searching for candidates who possessed critical thinking and communication skills, as well as strong cultural perspective. According to McMaster’s Associate Dean of Humanities, Anna Moro, “In the long run, it’s the people with the liberal arts backgrounds who end up being CEOs.”
Employers agree with Moro’s statement. In fact, a poll from the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows that nine out of 10 employers value thinking, communication and problem solving skills more than the major a person studied in college. Over 75 percent of employers also prefer candidates who can understand diverse cultures. Humanities classes can help develop these skills through discussions in philosophy classes, along with closer studies of English texts.
Unfortunately, many students and parents are being told that there are few job opportunities available for humanities majors, so they turn to science and business studies that they deem to be more useful. The new McMaster program addresses this issue by incorporating humanities classes that are directly tailored to its business majors. For example, humanities faculty are teaching English classes about sentence and communication structure. Additionally, they’re teaching discussion-based classes about how to decide what data to collect and analyze for business courses such as accounting-based ones which address essential global questions. The program also teaches philosophy classes to help students develop their arguments and determine the consequences of these arguments.
The result will be students who graduate the DeGroote School of Business with an Integrated Business and Humanities degree. These students will have the benefit of not being forced to pigeonhole themselves in one major or the other. Instead, they can study a major that might currently have strong job security associated with it, while still gaining necessary skills that only humanities courses can teach.
This is especially important in a climate in which, according to Moro, “there’s a pressure to cut certain programs that are not profitable because your revenues are based on your enrollment.” In fact, some governors and legislators have proposed increasing tuition for “non-strategic” majors in favor of giving grants and loans to popular majors that typically do better in the job market. Under these circumstances, a program like McMaster University’s is essential to reassert the value of a humanities education.
The fact of the matter is we must acknowledge the importance of both technical studies and humanities studies in order to develop all of the skills necessary to leave the university environment. Business and science majors may have more visibility when it comes to a clear career path after college in the current job market, but this certainly does not mean that humanities studies provide students with essential skills for leadership, management and overall self-betterment. These studies must no longer be considered as competitors and instead must be encouraged simultaneously to benefit students in the long run.
Alex Oliveira is a staff columnist for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.