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Old 09-05-2009, 11:25 AM   #11
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"People all think that in a bad economy, they need skills for a job," said Christopher Nelson, president of St. John's. "What they don't realize is that a liberal arts education will give them skills for life, and that will get them a job."
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:18 AM   #12
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From what I read in ST and also heard from my US friends, Liberal Arts is suffering from bad publicity and image issues now. This is due to many colleges jumping onto the wagon to offer "liberal arts" and even more students jumping into many feel good marketing resulting a drop in overall student quality and education content.

So please choose your colleges carefully if you want to do liberal arts. Not all are good, and sadly, most who carry a liberal arts degree now are viewed unfavorably by employers.
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Old 06-25-2010, 03:32 PM   #13
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There's an article in the Straits Times about two months ago about a Liberal Arts degree.

Liberal arts is for pragmatists
What I say is reflective my own opinion, not that of the BrightSparks Administration nor that of other moderators. Any advice offered by myself or other moderators / forum members on this forum is just that - mere advice. Neither BrightSparks nor we give any illusion that the information provided is definitive, and take no responsibility for any consequences.

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Old 08-11-2010, 09:42 AM   #14
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Straits Times: Why a liberal arts education is useful
By Kishore Mahbubani

ONE of the most stupid decisions I have made in my life also turned out to be one of the wisest decisions of my life. What was my most stupid decision? It was to give up studying economics and sociology at the National University of Singapore (NUS), repeat a year and start studying philosophy as a single subject. Friends and family thought I was committing an act of total folly by giving up one year of income and graduating a year later, and studying an impractical and 'useless' subject.

So why was it wise? Simple! We are moving into an era of great uncertainty. Frankly, no one has a clue about the nature of the new world order which is emerging. Experts are clueless. No one predicted the Lehman Brothers crisis of 2008. Many more such crises are forthcoming because we have never experienced the kinds of historical changes we are experiencing now.

And how does one prepare for uncertainty? The only way to do so is to take nothing for granted. We must learn to question every assumption in our minds. How does one acquire the facility to do this? The answer is a Western liberal arts education.


Though I specialised only in philo-sophy, I imbibed the liberal arts culture of challenging and questioning assumptions. This habit of questioning assumptions did not stop when I graduated from NUS in 1971. Indeed, it has intensified over the years. And this habit of questioning gives me the confidence to predict with certainty that we will be encountering uncertainty on many fronts.


So how do we deal with these multiple waves of uncertainty which will inevitably come to our shores? We should learn a lesson or two from the surfers of physical waves. They train their bodies to immediately seize and take advantage of a new wave and try to ride it before it swamps them. In Singapore, we should all learn to become mental surfers, ready to ride the next wave of uncertainty before it swamps us.

The art of mental surfing can be best learnt through a liberal arts education. Singaporean parents are congenitally conditioned to push their children to learn something 'useful', like engineering or accounting. Yes, these are worthwhile professions - my son is studying civil engineering. At the same time, Singaporean parents should not despair if their children opt for a 'useless' liberal arts education - as my two other children have.

Such an education may actually provide the most useful education young Singaporeans can get.
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Old 04-01-2011, 11:23 AM   #15
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I posted something similar in another thread, but since this is a sticky, I'll repeat a little of it. I attended a top LAC as well as a top University and who spent many years in the U.S. I think there is a general misunderstanding of what LAC actually means. There is a standalone LAC like Swarthmore or a LAC within a University, like Harvard College is within Harvard University or Yale College within Yale University. It can be even more complicated as Columbia University has two colleges, a LAC for women called Barnard and Columbia College, which is mixed. Its easier to get into Barnard College than Columbia College. Barnard Graduates are graduates from Columbia University. Harvard University used to have a similar women's college called Radcliffe, but it merged with Harvard College some time ago. Dartmouth College is an Ivy League institution, and is much more selective than Duke University, but still calls itself a college.

If the TS's question was about "liberal arts degrees" rather than standalone LACs, then the Ivies such as Harvard, Yale etc grant liberal arts degree, typically an A.B. rather than B.A. (In fact, after I graduated and started work for a Stat Board, they actually made me get an official latin translation!) Anyway, TS's point should whether Singapore employers think more highly of Ivy League institutions compared to top liberal arts colleges. In the U.S., bulge bracket Investment banks do recruit at Amherst, Williams and Swarthmore and they would probably consider them less reputable than Harvard, Yale and Princeton, but equal to Penn, Dartmouth and better than Cornell (those 3 standalone LACs are far more selective than Cornell). Since Investment Banks recruit globally, it wouldn't make much difference with their Singapore office, but certainly local GLCs, banks and other employers here would have heard more about Cornell or Berkeley than the top standalone LACs. However, its really only certain professions that require top degrees - bulge bracket investment banks and management consulting - so getting a degree from a top LAC shouldn't make that much of a difference with most other jobs. Plus, you will probably interview better after going overseas.

A much larger proportion of Americans go to graduate school compared to Singaporeans and in the US both law and medicine are postgraduate, while business is mainly postgraduate. There are a few good undergraduate business schools like Wharton, but those headed for top investment banks typically go to a top LAC and then do a MBA at to business schools like Harvard or Stanford. Businesses find such students more rounded and more interesting than those with a undergraduate business degree.The top medical schools generally take in graduates of top LACs (standalone and integrated) who did a pre-med program while they were at the LAC. They occasionally take in some engineers too.
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Old 04-10-2011, 12:16 PM   #16
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The problem is that Singapore is filled with hiring managers who think like her...

Is it worth having a liberal arts college here?

THE deal is set for the Yale University and the National University of Singapore to set up a liberal arts college here ('Yale-NUS College gets faculty, alumni backing'; April 1).

But the question I want to pose is: Is it worth it?

The college will be offering a degree in liberal arts, which is not exactly a commercially viable qualification.

The fact is, to live and succeed in a competitive country like Singapore, there is more pressure on students such as myself to get a degree that will help us get a stable job, rather than something we would like to do.

The unfortunate truth is that students go to university for the degree, and not for the experience.

Also, the liberal arts 'scene' in Singapore is virtually non-existent. Students who want to actually apply what they learn in the programme will have to migrate to a country with more liberal arts opportunities, something conservative Singapore cannot provide.

Therefore, having a course that binds Western and Eastern cultures becomes moot.

Also, why not go straight to Yale, or any other university in a liberal arts savvy foreign country to study since they will have to migrate anyway? How useful will the students find this programme?

Dhaneesha Ratankumar Chugani (Miss)
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:33 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by rintintin View Post
The problem is that Singapore is filled with hiring managers who think like her...

Not all, such as those who will ultimately employ these graduates, think the same way as her.

Last edited by germatory; 04-10-2011 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 04-16-2011, 08:47 PM   #18
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concrete business skills tend to expire in five years or so as technology and organizations change. History and philosophy, on the other hand, provide the kind of contextual knowledge and reasoning skills that are indispensable for business students.
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Old 07-09-2011, 12:15 PM   #19
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Nothing is ever conclusive vis a vis education-career.

Some industries acquire highly specialized workers to meet operational projects or research. Others internally develop workers to handle both core competencies as well as organizational management.

The former comprises of a bulk of focused-degrees like law, engineering, science, etc whilst the latter may refer to LAC graduates who pursued focused-degrees for postgraduate studies.

It depends on self, ultimately. There's no need to procrastinate about our local employers' mindset or hiring practices. Just do what you love and bring it to success.
Class of 2013
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Old 10-09-2011, 08:07 PM   #20
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An undergraduate's major doesn't factor into hiring decisions at Morgan Stanley, says Keisha Smith, global head of recruiting for the investment bank. Between 60% and 65% of the company's undergraduate hires have a business-related major, while most of the rest carry liberal-arts degrees, she says.
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