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Psychology alum Christina Salguero highlights how her major led her to a rewarding career in this Columns article.

Exerpted from Columns Magazine

Humanities anyone?

Society’s focus on STEM careers has contributed to a precipitous drop in liberal arts majors. It could be a problem.

Sometimes students are hesitant to choose a liberal-arts major because the career path may not be as obvious, says Stacey (Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences). Other times, families, fearing a student’s earning potential right out of school will be lower, pressure them to pursue a degree that they believe will lead to a higher-paying job. There’s also the perception—unfounded, says Stacey—that our country needs more science, technology, engineering and math graduates but not English or art history majors. He points to a recent Economic Policy Institute study that found that in fact only 50 percent of information technology graduates, including computer science majors, find jobs that require a STEM degree.

This debate between STEM and liberal arts actually takes things in the wrong direction, says Stacey. What’s more important is that workers can stick with difficult challenges, think analytically, be curious and communicate effectively with a variety of audiences—skills at the heart of a liberal arts education.

Looking ahead, workers will also need the flexibility of mind to adapt to new careers. “If current predictions hold true, students graduating today will hold 15 different jobs before they retire from the workforce,” Stacey explains. “Many of those jobs don’t even exist yet. So what will determine the long-term success of our students is not their first job, but their capacity to adapt to a rapidly and constantly changing economic and social landscape. That’s where the breadth and depth of a liberal-arts education can be a huge benefit.”

Christina Salguero arrived at the UW in 2006 as a community college transfer student from Spokane, fixed on studying psychology. “I just knew that understanding the human mind was fascinating to me,” she says. But she didn’t know where it would lead.

A few years after college, Salguero joined the Peace Corps in Guatemala. There she helped young people develop life skills and assisted teachers and parents in learning how to offer the same type of support. “It helped me see the value of being a stable person who can give kids hard skills in how to walk through life,” she says.

Now Salguero, ’08, is the clinical manager with Friends of Youth, an organization for at-risk boys and girls. There, she focuses on helping adolescent boys learn to make healthy choices and be self-sufficient. It’s work, she says, that completely suits her values and interests.

For Salguero, a UW liberal-arts degree was about pursuing what fascinated her and then finding a career that rewarded her. “I like working with adolescents who are figuring out their own path,” she says. “I help them risk-manage while they’re finding themselves.”

 

Read the entire article here.