"... I imagine you would consider the study of history and literature a most reasonable and liberal employment of the mind; for other occupations are not suited to every time, nor every age or place; but these studies are the food of youth, the delight of old age; the ornament of prosperity, the refuge and comfort of adversity; a delight at home and no hindrance abroad; they are companions by night, and in travel, and in country."
- Cicero, Orations
"Training in technical skills has a half-life of about five years. After that, the skills taught through the liberal arts become far more important - how to listen to and understand others, how to gather your own thoughts and articulate them in speech or in writing. Those are the kinds of skills that make someone much more likely to be promoted, and much less likely to be laid off."
- David May, director of marketing, Goldman Sachs
Two thousand years and a world of differences may separate Cicero, the famed Roman statesman, and David May, a modern businessman, but their message is timeless and uniform: Both articulate clearly the value of a liberal arts education.
The College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University delivers that value as successfully as any similarly situated institution in the United States. Alumni can take pride in the fact that 21 of the College's departments and programs are ranked in the top 10 of the country. Another 23 have been ranked in the top 20.*
Beyond rankings, however, is the intrinsic value of education at the College. As alumni you may remember fondly the interaction with fellow students while you learned outside the classroom setting, as well as within. The limestone buildings, gracefully surrounded by the woods and flowerbeds, remain places where knowledge is discovered, shared, and transferred to a new generation; where lifetime friendships are formed and connectivity to Indiana University takes hold.
The intrinsic value of an education at the College runs as deep, and has lasted as long, as Cicero's words: The knowledge gained here is the "food of youth" and will be the "delight of old age." Students who take advantage of our art history classes gain an understanding that will sustain a lifetime of enjoyment. Chemistry students acquire the ability to participate intelligently in the public discussion of environmental issues and medical care. A course in social science can initiate a lifetime of perceptive involvement in social relations and political affairs. Some students will discover and cultivate a passion for physics, biology, or some other field and will make it their life's work, gaining the potential to change the human condition.
To my mind, indulging a passion - or discovering one - is what the College is all about. I discovered in college a love of history and tremendously enjoyed my coursework. The opportunity to discover and pursue that passion was priceless, and it becomes more meaningful to me every day. Those of us who do not go forward with academic careers have the singular chance to develop our passions through the College. After all, our lives cannot accommodate them as deeply afterwards.
It is increasingly true that discovering and developing a passion through the study of the liberal arts is an outstanding preparation for career success. As David May states, "skills taught through the liberal arts become far more important" as lives and careers take shape. A Dean's Advisory Board member remarked to me that a liberal arts education teaches the ability to think, articulate, and adapt. Since the majority of people will have several jobs - indeed two or three careers - over their working lifetime, these skills are paramount.
I am learning this again in my new role in the College. I interact daily with alumni who lead fascinating, productive lives across a broad range of pursuits in academia, the private sector, and the arts. Their experience at the College unites them and, they tell me, was the genesis for the fulfillment they now enjoy.
It is humbling and exciting to have the chance to work with alumni and friends of the College as we go forward with the challenge of maintaining and enhancing the quality of our institution. Thank you, Dean Subbaswamy, for the opportunity. And thank you, alumni and friends, for your ongoing contributions to the life of the College.
- Tom Herbert
* Rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, Gourman Report, IU Research and the University Graduate School, and NRC.