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“I think that what it actually shows is the value of the kind of education we’re offering,” said Tim Raylor, an English professor who specializes in 17th century literature. “We’ve got English majors who are now architects, who are internal medicine specialists. It gives us the warrant and the evidence to say to students, ‘Don’t panic.’ ”
Cathy Yandell, a French professor, agrees. “We also have plenty of French majors who went into medicine, law, business and finance,” she said. “I often tell students just keep doing what you’re drawn to. And what you’re drawn to will tell you something about what you want to do.”
Newman calls it “a remarkable tool” that shows “you can major in just about anything at Carleton and end up doing just about anything in the world.”
A skeptical voice
But that message can be somewhat misleading, says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. “I wouldn’t tell them that it doesn’t matter what you major in,” he said. For many jobs in today’s market, he said, it does.
What makes Carleton, and other elite colleges, different is that most of their students go on to graduate school, he said, where they learn their professions.
“That’s terrific,” he said. But, “I always get troubled when I see classics professors trying to sell classics as a good career, because they’re always stretching the truth.”
Newman is quick to point out that this isn’t just about finding a job.
“The value of the liberal arts education is that it trains you very broadly to think and write and express yourself and analyze problems,” he said. That, he said, is why most students choose a school like Carleton.
The new Pathways project, he said, will help them see that there’s value in those skills in the workplace.
As of last week, Serena Chalaka, 18, a Carleton freshman from near Seattle, admitted she hadn’t yet checked out the Pathways site. At this point, she said, she has no idea what she wants to be, and she’s taking classes in dance, economics and Chinese.
But even though she just started her college career, she knows the clock is ticking. “There is slight pressure to find a place where I’ll be happy,” she said. “You put it off for too long, you can find yourself lost.”
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384