Post-college success isn’t all about the money

on May 21 | in President's Essay | by

Families take the financial worth of a college degree into account — and they should. But that’s only part of the picture.

By President Nancy Oliver Gray

President Nancy GrayOne can hardly pick up a newspaper today without reading an article that is critical of liberal arts education. Some of our critics seem to think that the only purpose of education is to get a job, while others question the value of residential undergraduate education in an era where students can take massive open online courses, or MOOCs, or choose nonprofit institutions or less expensive institutions than private colleges and universities. While perhaps some of this criticism may be justified, and certainly we must be more willing to change than we have previously been, it is important for all of us to appreciate and claim the value of liberal arts education.

In a world in which we are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, in which they will be using information technology applications not yet invented, the very best preparation for leadership, service, and lifelong learning is not just teaching job-related skills, but that which comes from liberal education: effective communication, critical thinking skills, creative problem solving, the ability to work well in groups of diverse people, the ability to think for oneself. Not only are those abilities essential for effective professional preparation in a time of rapid global and technological change, but they are also the very skills needed to educate those who will be leaders and citizens in our democracy.

“The very best preparation for leadership, service, and lifelong learning is not just teaching job-related skills, but that which comes from liberal education.”

Hollins may be small, but as one of my colleagues recently said, “Our shoe size is small, but our footprint is large.” Consider these recent accomplishments:

  • The Kennedy Center has awarded Hollins’ production of Natasha Trethewey’s (M.A. ’91) Belloc’s Ophelia with the equivalent of four silver medals, including “Distinguished Production of a New Work,” “Distinguished Performance and Production Ensemble,” “Distinguished Scenic Design,” and “Distinguished Choreography.” Other important awards went to Meredith Levy ’12 and Kevin Ferguson.
  • We are experiencing great success with our preveterinary program. Over the last few years, every student who has applied to vet school has been accepted.
  • The Hollins riding team won the 2013 ODAC Equestrian Championships to capture an ODAC-record 19th conference riding championship and the team’s third title in four years. Sarah Brown ’13 won ODAC Rider of the Year honors, the fourth straight year a Hollins rider has earned the title. In addition, Hollins head coach Sandy Gerald received his seventh ODAC Coach of the Year award.
  • The CCAP (Center for College Affordability and Productivity) has named Hollins among the nation’s “25 Colleges with the Best Professors.” This list features some of the country’s most prestigious institutions, including the U.S. Military Academy, Carleton College, Wellesley College, Bryn Mawr College, and Sewanee, the University of the South.

Accomplishments like these would not be possible without the faculty and dedicated staff at Hollins. As you know, at Hollins, student and faculty research is done side by side; professors spend their summers helping students complete original work; professors still entertain students in their homes, spend their weekends taking them on field trips, and continue to go the extra mile for their students. This year, a number of faculty at Hollins have announced their retirements, including Nancy Dahlstrom, Ruth Doan, Juergen Fleck, Randall Flory, Wayne Markert, and Art Poskocil. If you are a former student of these professors, please take a moment to write them a note or send them an email to let them know how much impact they had on your life. And please join with our Board of Trustees, Alumnae Board, faculty, and others as we work hard to preserve high-quality liberal arts education and exceptional teaching for women at Hollins.

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