Your liberal arts degree matters


Ryan Houston-Dial

Studying for classes, participating in student organizations and maintaining relationships contribute to the fatigue college students experience daily. As college students, we face plenty of adversity, which leaves most of us exhausted by the end of the day, only to repeat it all over again tomorrow. However, the stigma of obtaining any liberal and fine arts degree has been one of the greatest troubles for many students I have spoken to this past semester. The stigma involves problems centered around the STEM versus Arts conversation. Typically, individuals who pursue STEM career fields are very successful; however, there is not only one path to success.

The stigma begins with the notion that if a STEM degree isn’t obtained, a student will not have any real success beyond college. I asked some of my friends who are looking to obtain STEM degrees about their choice, and most are doing it for money rather than passion. Their parents push the degree on them because they think that their children need good-paying jobs whether they enjoy them or not. The stigma also suggests that an Arts degree student is limited to minimal achievement and is taking an easier route to graduation. This led many students I spoke with to question their ability to make good decisions for their futures. Peers told them, “How are you going to get a job with an Arts degree? You aren’t going to be very successful. Maybe you should reconsider your degree.” These comments anger me beyond measure because most of these stigmas are based on societal assumptions. What are we defining as success in our world? Is it money, and if so, does it truly solve all of our problems? It scares me because individuals are giving up their passions to chase society’s idea of ultimate success: money. Rarely have individuals observed the countless opportunities Arts degrees can provide graduates, which, in fact, can take them anywhere in the world.

As an undergraduate psychology student, I have encountered similar questions throughout my college career. People tend to ask me what I am studying in college, and after I tell them, my answer is followed by, “Oh, you want to be a therapist?” or “You must want to help the crazy people in the world.” Statements like these make me feel there is a common belief that I am only able to operate within certain confines and limited to pursue only one career. When I respond with “No, I plan to become a neuropsychologist,” their eyes suddenly get big and they realize they were wrong to assume my career plans. I also believe these comments do a disservice to the importance of mental health because we all go through troubling times. The phrase, “crazy people,” is also wildly inaccurate because anyone can face mental health issues. Instead of creating an assumption about my future, I would have appreciated a genuine question about my career plans and passions related to psychology.

To any individual pursuing an Arts degree, continue to let your artistic expression flourish and lead you to success. If someone attempts to disregard your ability to creatively express yourself, amplify your ideas to new heights. Your Arts degree matters and carries hard work and dedication just like any other degree. Stand strong and remember your passions are what led you to explore the things you love. Do not let the stigma society has created delegate you to only one space you can become successful within. Arts degree graduates exist fluidly outside of any “box” we are placed in, and we will continue to prosper within society. The knowledge and teachings of any art are important to our cultural advances. Not to mention all the brands we cherish in clothing, food and pop culture originate from artistic expression. Arts degree graduates are composed of a large portion of individuals who critically analyze social issues in unique and important ways. We ask that you respect us and remain genuine in your questions and conversations. We deserve a seat at the table.