What a Liberal Arts Degree Can Do for You

I am a college graduate.

My degree is in Liberal Arts, with an emphasis on English. I worked through several majors before realizing I wanted to learn about a wide variety of things. I moved through Photo Journalism, Forestry, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, Finance, Theatre, and Political Science with an emphasis towards Law. Ultimately, my love affair with the written word compelled me to pursue English and Literature. To those of you who believe a Liberal Arts Degree is a waste of time, resources, and energy, please refer to this article.

What an education does.

The fact is I discovered somewhere along the education trail I benefited from learning as much as possible. (I think I was also committed, for a certain time anyway, to being a professional college student). We’ve been told that college teaches us abstract reasoning. I gained a great deal of experience in academia and social skills. I made life long friends (my best friend hails from my community college days, where we were both active in student government and student activities). I had an interest in politics and recognized the power of the voice long before I recognized the drive for expression. I had some amazing experiences, traveled, and learned. In university I was active in student government, where I made trips to the state capitol (Tallahassee) on behalf of the university student body, or the S.U.S. (State University System).

As a writer I learned to appreciate the written word under the careful guidance of a teacher, himself a man of letters and former professor, Dr. Roundy.

In pursuing my theatre goals, I performed on many stages, and experienced my first “professional” show (a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, the headline production for the Jupiter Shakespeare Festival that year) while still a university student. I learned the difference between verse and prose, spending time benefiting from the school’s awesome eminent scholar program, where a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from the Old Vic Theatre, Stephen Jenn, spent a semester. I developed an insatiable love for the classics, nurtured under Mr. Jenn’s careful tutelage. A love I still feed. Remember that love of the written word I referred to? Stephen Jenn inspired me to explore the works of Shakespeare by merely opening the door and turning me loose. I was a kid in a candy store. I learned so much, and still smile on the experience.

If you haven’t heard it before, you’ve heard it from me for the first time: Your time in school will be some of the best times of your life. Take advantage of it and enjoy it. There are exceptions. For most of us, however, the land that’s a post secondary education is magical.

What a degree does.

A degree indicates we have focus and ability. A degree shows we have the ability to complete a task. A degree proves we accomplished something. At least that’s what I’m told. I’ll tell you this: I believe it. A Liberal Arts degree might speak to some as a degree without focus. To me, it suggests the ability to focus on many things at once. Think about it: Instead of following a single delineated line or discipline, your education is wide sweeping.

Back on point.

To a colleague, a degree proves a measure of merit. To a potential employer it proves a degree of qualification (pun intended). It justifies a pay scale. To a point. Nothing trumps real world experience. And the degree is not worth the paper its printed on when it comes from a mail-order facility without recognized accreditation. These “degree mills” send out diplomas with the the ease of a Pez dispenser.

If you intend to pursue a higher education, do it through legitimate means. Attend a college or university, either as a resident or commuter, or do it online. Make certain the school is accredited. Make your money work for you. Be smart, and reap the benefits. I once heard it is always best to avoid doing anything to bring shame to the family name or oneself. These infractions can never be reversed. Nothing is more embarrassing than being found out to be a fraud or fake, and to have based or built a career on fabricated credentials. That is a most ignoble fall from grace.

Make your education count.

I have worked as an actor and stuntman professionally for over fifteen years. My theatre and entertainment education provided me the basic tenets of a foundation to build upon. My English and Literature education helped me to find my own voice as a writer.

I have made my voice count in politics where issues such as the current climate for film production is concerned – something that I might have not considered without an education, understanding, and efficacy of a single voice. In theatre and live shows, I have used my experience to further the common good – the community that gathers to create the magical experience that happens on the stage – and have continued to learn and gain. It’s a beautiful thing when these moments coalesce into experiences that touch everyone on the stage and beyond the fourth wall.

We all do well to learn from our mistakes. In the past, I may not have performed as well as I would have liked to, academically, but I continue to build on that platform to this day. Some days I realize how much I’ve yet to learn. But every day I look to expand the reaches of my brain and its capacity. It is an interesting thing that a brain challenged expands, and when nourished, refuses to return to its original size.

Nourish your brain, enrich your soul, and you will realize the same results. Have respect for the education, and be grateful of the opportunity it provides. You’ll appreciate the experience years after you’ve completed your education.

In real time, and down the road – in time not measured – an education is the foundation for a solid structure that is you.