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The Liberal Arts Faculty Experience

The residential liberal arts colleges of the Consortium are committed to promoting excellent teaching for undergraduate learning. As part of their intellectual vitality, interactive teaching and active learning environments, Consortium member schools seek to build rich intellectual communities of students and faculty members. Through a variety of faculty development programs, ranging from research leaves, curriculum development grants, and support of scholarly expenses to teaching roundtables and travel to professional meetings, Consortium member schools encourage and support the creative and scholarly work of their faculty members.

At our schools, a passion for teaching is a "must," as is significant effectiveness in a variety of pedagogical settings. Faculty members at Consortium member schools can expect to devote a substantial amount of time to teaching and advising undergraduate students. Because our campuses and departments are small, faculty members are encouraged to undertake inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary curricular projects, including the design and teaching of interdisciplinary courses, first-year seminars or courses for non-majors. Use of innovative pedagogy that supports student learning, such as collaborative group work or inquiry learning, may also be expected.

Florida’s leaders wrong about liberal arts

An OpEd by President Riggs in the Miami Herald — January 28, 2016

Once again, a prominent politician from Florida has provided an excellent opportunity to talk about the value of a liberal arts education.

In 2011, Florida Gov. Rick Scott commented about not needing any more anthropology majors. Around the same time, Florida State Sen. Don Gaetz referred to psychology and political science majors as “degrees that don’t mean much.”

Janet RiggsLast year presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he hoped those who are pursuing “that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing” know that they are going to end up working at Chick-Fil-A.

This month, Gov. Scott was back at it, worrying over the popularity of psychology as a field of study and the fact that we’re “sending out graduates with degrees that don’t mean much.”

So what good is a psychology degree?

We know that it takes more education than a bachelor’s degree for someone to earn the title of psychologist, just as it takes more education than a bachelor’s degree for someone to earn the title of medical doctor or lawyer.

But does that make a psychology major useless? Of course not.            

I consider it critically important that our graduates find fulfilling work that pays a good living wage. Every college president wants their graduates to have successful and gratifying professional lives.

A psychology major — or an anthropology major — or that “philosophy major thing” — all provide excellent preparation for a wide variety of jobs and careers. I would argue that any rigorous major paired with a strong and broad-based academic program in the liberal arts and sciences provides solid preparation for careers in this fast-changing globally interconnected world.

A liberal arts education improves problem-solving skills and critical analysis. It builds the ability to consider multiple perspectives when addressing a complex topic. A liberal arts degree fosters excellent written and oral communication skills. And it advances students’ ability to interact and work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

These are skills that are key in dealing with today’s challenging issues, and they are skills that are transferable across many professions. It’s an approach to education that is, contrary to the opinions of Florida’s political leaders, especially valuable at a time in which job requirements are fast-changing and in which we are preparing graduates for careers that don’t yet exist.

College should be about more than training for one job; it should be about preparing for a lifetime of work.

And you can bet this approach works well for our students at Gettysburg College. Ninety-five percent are employed full-time or enrolled in graduate or professional school within 12 months of their graduation. According to’s College Salary Report for 2015-16 Gettysburg alumni earn more than $50,000 annually during their early career years and more than $100,000 by the time they reach mid-career.

While wages are important, a residential liberal arts colleges also provide students with a tremendous opportunity for personal growth through engagement in a wide variety of co-curricular activities.

At Gettysburg College, students address social justice issues through our Center for Public Service; they develop leadership skills with the support of the Garthwait Leadership Center; they engage in debate about important public policy issues of the day through the Eisenhower Institute. In addition, our low student-faculty ratio provides the opportunity for students to be individually mentored by faculty.

The bottom line? Politicians are doing a disservice to us all by blasting the liberal arts. Residential liberal arts colleges prepare students not only for professional success, but also for lives of civic impact. Our world needs more people — not fewer — with this kind of preparation.

As for psychology majors? In addition to the liberal arts skills I’ve mentioned, psychology majors get an education steeped in the scientific method, statistical analysis, and writing clearly about complex subjects.

They also learn a great deal about human interaction and the causes of human behavior. They go on to have rich and diverse careers in human services, marketing, business, research, human resources, consulting, and education.

And some of us go on to be college presidents.

OpEd appears here:

Liberal arts education is a smart move in today's world

Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs '77

President Janet Morgan Riggs '77 authored an editorial that appeared in The Patriot News (Harrisburg, Pa.) Aug. 28 about the value of a liberal arts education in today's world.

As president of Gettysburg College I've often talked and written about the value of a liberal arts education. I understand that in today's economic climate, the thought of spending money for an education not specific to a particular job leaves some scratching their heads.

To that concern I respond that a liberal arts education has never been more valuable as the problems we face have grown more complex, as our world has become increasingly connected and as the pace of change has accelerated.

The term liberal arts can be misleading to those unfamiliar with the phrase. Some might wonder whether liberal arts colleges only teach the arts or teach liberal political views. However, the use of the word liberal in this context refers to a broad education that is intellectually liberating, one that teaches analytical thinking from multiple perspectives and creativity in problem-solving.

That breadth of approach includes not only the arts, but also the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. A liberal arts education teaches students how to think critically, communicate effectively, analyze information and solve problems.
Today's graduates will hold not just several jobs, but several careers over their lifetimes. In fact, many will enter careers that do not currently exist. That suggests that training for a specific job might not provide the flexibility that today's graduates need. Learning how to learn - learning general skills that translate from one career to another - enables the flexibility that is required in today's fast-moving world.

Of course, a college education also opens surprising doors. When Michael Bishop entered Gettysburg College in 1953, he thought he might major in history. Instead he became a scientist, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, and chancellor of the University of California at San Francisco, home of one of the top five medical schools and health centers in the country.

Bishop is a classic example of a liberal arts college student who enters college imagining one future and leaves prepared for another. The college experience often unlocks possibilities for graduates that have great benefit for the individual and for society.

To support and complement a strong academic experience, most liberal arts colleges offer a rich array of opportunities designed to prepare graduates for lives of responsible citizenship.

At Gettysburg, we focus on preparation of leaders for a fast-changing world. That means leadership in one's profession and in one's community -- and that requires more than the intellectual preparation to approach complex issues.

Leadership also means that our graduates must feel a sense of responsibility for taking the action necessary to solve difficult problems. They must be prepared and inclined to take effective action in service of the greater good.

That inclination is developed through public service and leadership programs, through the opportunity to live in a vibrant community and interact with individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds and through the development of a world-view that goes far beyond one's hometown.

At Gettysburg, we are proud to be among the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholarship winners in the country. Our students are prepared and inspired to work in locations worldwide to provide assistance and promote positive social change.

Perhaps it is no surprise that other nations have begun to establish institutions modeled after American liberal arts colleges. In recent years, China and the United Arab Emirates have expanded educational opportunities for their students in the liberal arts. They see the value of encouraging personal development along with intellectual development, of providing a broad-based approach that inspires intellectual curiosity and life-long learning.

For individuals, a college education is a tremendous investment that will return dividends in personal and intellectual development, in income, in job choice and in professional flexibility.

For our society, a college education is an investment that will return dividends in the solution of complex problems, in the understanding of and appreciation for diverse cultural perspectives, and in effective local and global leadership.

This is the time of year when students begin to arrive on our nation's college campuses for a new academic year. It's a time of renewal. It's a time of hopes and dreams. And it's a time to prepare for the future.

Numbers Don't Lie -- A Cost/Value Analysis of a Liberal Arts Degree

President Janet M. RiggsThis article appeared in the Huffington Post on Feb. 26 about the value of a liberal arts degree.

by Janet Morgan Riggs

Can the poor and middle class afford an education at a private liberal arts college? And is it a wise investment?

What a shame that news stories about the high costs of college lead many to think that the answer to these questions is no. Not only is a liberal arts education not as expensive as news stories lead us to believe, but there may be no better investment in America today.

According to CNN/Money's interpretation of data provided by Peterson's Guides, the average annual student cost of attending my institution, Gettysburg College, after receipt of grants and scholarships, is $25,400, making the average four-year cost $107,800. That sounds like a lot of money. However, this is significantly less than the "sticker price," thanks to alumni, parents, and friends who believe so strongly in the value of a Gettysburg education that they help support those students who could not afford to attend otherwise.

Now let's factor in the fact that the average living cost for a single person in America, including rent, utilities, cable, groceries, entertainment, transportation and health insurance is $1,300 per month. This doesn't include car payments or insurance, gym memberships, weekend trips, or the occasional vacation.

At Gettysburg we provide our students with high quality dining; access to cultural events, speakers, and fitness facilities; and the opportunities to participate in a vast array of activities. Although one could easily make the case that this quality of life exceeds the average standard of living, let's assume that all of this could be bought for the average living cost of $1,300 per month. That totals $11,700 for the 9 months that our students typically spend on campus each year. If those living costs are subtracted from what the average student is paying, the annual cost for their education is $13,700. So one could conclude that the average cost of a four-year Gettysburg education is under $60,000. And it's worth noting that most of our students earn their degrees in four years.

The point is that when considering cost of a college education, one should factor in living expenses as well as available scholarships and grants. The cost of the education may be far less than the "sticker price" would lead one to believe.

But what about value? Is this investment worth it? Is it worth it enough to take on debt? That's the question we should all be asking, whether it's a private liberal arts college, a business school, or a major research university.

Once again, if we turn to the numbers, we find evidence that a college degree is indeed a financially sound investment. In 2011, a report issued by the Center for Education and the Workforce stated that those holding bachelor's degrees earn nearly a million dollars more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. The numbers make the case.

In addition, a survey of college graduates done in 2002 and repeated in 2011 by education consultant Hardwick Day indicates that relative to graduates of public flagship universities, liberal arts college graduates feel better prepared for life after college and say that their academic preparation played a more important role in their acceptance to graduate school and finding their first job.

The bottom line? A private liberal arts college is an excellent financial investment and within financial reach for most. Fortunately, despite the misleading headlines, many families and students understand this cost/value analysis. For example, the average family income of those going to private colleges here in PA is lower than that of those going to the state universities.

Of course, value extends beyond a paycheck. The same Hardwick Day survey shows that liberal arts college graduates report a higher degree of academic challenge, greater involvement in community service, stronger leadership skill development, greater benefits from high quality teaching-oriented faculty, and greater satisfaction with the overall quality of their education.

Liberal arts colleges are focused on the development of critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills, all of which are essential to solving the complex issues our globally interconnected world faces. We prepare students to be responsible citizens, individuals who will work to improve their communities. That value to our nation and the world might be harder to quantify than individual salary, but it's no less important.

The full piece can also be found on the Huffington Post or on News@Gettysburg.

Suzanne Gockowski

Campus Box 410
300 North Washington Street·
Gettysburg, PA 17325