“We also want students to find a company in a geographical area that suits them—maybe that’s a big-business city; maybe it’s a part of the country or world that’s known for tech or entrepreneurialism. So we offer First Looks, during which a group of 10 to 12 students have an opportunity to meet with alumni at two to four organizations in a particular region. We focus our First Looks efforts on Columbus, especially the New Albany area, which is 25 minutes away from campus and home to a broad range of types of organizations. But we also have taken students to Chicago and Cleveland, and we’re planning a trip to Boston this spring.
We are connecting our students with alumni and parents who can be powerful coaches and guides. One tool we use is Wisr, a recently launched mentoring tool. Students can match their interests with an alumnus and set a time to talk with that person. Wisr sends reminders to both parties, and it even provides suggested questions for the students. Part of what makes it so useful, of course, is that a student can be confident that any alumni they are reaching out to have already agreed to be contacted, rather than having it feel like a 'cold call.'”
Liberal arts colleges have been criticized in the past for providing an education that’s not focused solely on one specific discipline, but you’re finding that liberal arts students are very much in demand by employers. Tell us about that.
Malin: “That’s right. We’re hearing from employers that they’re trying to recruit more students with diverse perspectives who can bring different experiences and points of view to rapidly changing work environments. They’re seeking out liberal arts students because those students have been exposed to a wide range of subjects and experiences. They are encouraged to do things that are not in their discipline or to try things they’ve never done before, such as studying abroad or forming a club. Liberal arts students are skilled at thinking about what is possible and then reacting to events. It’s an ability to think broadly and ask questions that sets the liberal arts graduate apart in the minds of employers. We’re seeing more and more CEOs with degrees in the humanities. Recent articles in the media, for example, point to the CEOs of Slack, YouTube, Airbnb, and others. It’s the humanities that are helping to solve issues facing humans. Students can develop the skills they need through programming, like OnBoard, but the larger reason employers are seeking liberal arts graduates is their ability to think, to ask the right questions, to put issues into cultural and historical contexts. A recent article in Fast Company magazine by a CEO of a tech startup listed several reasons why he is hiring more and more humanities majors: They better understand relationships, context, and human behavior. It’s the difference, he says, between “making stuff,” and “making stuff people want.”
How can parents and alumni help?
Malin: “We’re working to leverage the strength of the Denison family, and we encourage alumni and parents to reach out to the staff in the Knowlton Center if they can offer internships or externships that would allow our students to explore their fields.”