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Workshop helps students articulate their liberal arts education

Published on December 12, 2023

Workshop helps students articulate their liberal arts education

Dean Todd speaks with students
Dean of Arts and Sciences Emily Todd leads a workshop for students connecting Eastern's liberal arts education to five designated learning outcomes. 

Students of all majors joined Arts and Sciences Dean Emily Todd on Nov. 30 to better understand the ways to market their skills to employers and graduate schools. The students, with the guidance of Todd, evaluated the pillars of the university's Liberal Arts Core to articulate instances during their undergraduate career that highlight their capabilities. 

Eastern’s Liberal Arts Core is designed to ensure that graduates are well-equipped with the skills employers are looking for. The University adopted five outcome goals in 2020— critical thinking, communication, creativity, ethical reasoning and quantitative literacy. 

Todd’s workshop helped students develop concrete examples of how their work portrays each of these goals. She asked students to think about the courses that they’ve taken at Eastern, both related to their various majors and to fulfill the liberal arts requirements. For work related to research, Todd emphasized the importance of conveying information in a concise and understandable manner. 

“When I came to Eastern, I was so impressed by the employability initiatives here,” said Todd. “Many majors at Eastern offer classes that help students with professional preparation in the discipline, and faculty here connect students to alumni and professionals in their fields and to graduate school opportunities. So, really, what I had been learning about through the various national conferences I had attended was already happening at Eastern, which meant the workshop helped to support existing efforts here.”

Students write concrete liberal arts skillsBiology major Alyssa Sirianni ’24 spoke about her work studying the genes of C. elegans, a nematode, in order to look at how various gene expressions are related. As a genetic counseling minor, Sirianni has extensive knowledge of various scientific terminology related to her studies and can use that to her advantage when writing reports.  

Outside of a scientific setting, Sirianni demonstrated her ability to explain the stages of her research so that all listeners could follow. Her explanations highlighted her use of managing large data sets and taking part in long-term projects, as well as being able to simplify complex topics based on her audience. 

“I think Dean Todd did a great job incorporating a variety of interests and showing how while our majors might be different, the skill sets we use are very similar,” Sirianni said. 

Sirianni plans to continue her research after graduating in the spring, before applying to medical school. She said, “Even though my career is biology-based like my major, there are other skills such as critical thinking and ethical reasoning that will definitely be important in healthcare.” 

Psychology major Christopher Shular ’24 brought up his current internship at Memorial Elementary School and how it has helped him come up with creative ways to engage with students. He also pointed to his experience as a tour guide on campus as helping him articulate clearly and concisely. After graduation, Shular plans to take a gap year to get more experience in the psychology field before applying for master’s programs in school psychology. 

“It really made me think about all my skills and acts of leadership that can make me a stronger candidate for a job position,” Shular said. “It made me reflect on all the clubs, organizations, and courses I've taken during my college experience at Eastern, giving me important skills to take in the outside world and towards the process of applying for graduate school.”

Todd asked students to walk around the room, interacting with one another and describing the various ways each learning outcome has been demonstrated over their time as an undergraduate. She handed out different applications directed at the students of different majors in attendance — science and math-related jobs for biology majors and journalism and writing-based jobs for English and communication majors. She asked each of the students to look at the qualifications section of the applications and to relate what they had just discussed while going over the outcomes of each of the skills listed. 

Students were quickly able to see the various ways their experiences could directly tie into each application. 

Christopher Shular ’24“A liberal arts education provides excellent intellectual breadth and depth and prepares students with skills that are highly transferable and desired by employers in a wide range of careers,” Todd said. “All (the learning outcomes), together, set students up to be successful not only by adapting to a changing world but also by appreciating its complexity.” 

The students took turns asking each other interview questions in order to help prepare responses that would best present themselves and their abilities to employers. After responding, they spoke about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and what their peers can do to give them the best chance of securing a job. 

“More workshops like this in the future can help show students how to highlight skills they have learned outside of their major classes,” said Sirianni. Others in attendance agreed, noting that while their knowledge of major subjects is an asset they’d like to highlight when applying for their future careers, being able to use the skills picked up in all classes and extracurriculars will help them stand out in the job market. 

Written by Marcus Grant