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APSU'S liberal arts mission meets demand

February 5, 2001

The general public, particularly leaders in industry and business, have had difficulty buying into Austin Peay's mission as the state's designated public liberal arts university, often asking "what does that mean to me."

According to a recent survey by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, a liberal arts graduate is precisely what business and industry leaders are seeking today.

The survey included 380 employers, most in manufacturing and professional services. An article in the December 19, 2000 edition of "The Toronto Glove and Mail," titled "Job Prospects Improve for Liberal Arts Grads," summarizes the findings.

According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, the job market for students receiving any type of undergraduate or advanced degree in 2001 will expand 6 to 10 percent, while companies with at least 3,500 employees will expand hiring by 66 percent. Why? The oldest baby boomers are starting to retire, leaving a massive void.

Dr. Sherry Hoppe, APSU president, said, "Twenty years ago, many employers were by-passing liberal arts graduates in favor of those with specific technical skills. Today, those same employers recognize a well-rounded liberal arts education provides the best basis for an employee who can adapt to the ever-changing world of work."

In the newspaper article, Terri La Marco, associate director for employer relations at the University of Michigan, echoes Hoppe, saying that more employers are turning to liberal arts majors to fill jobs that once were considered technical, such as computer programming.

"The liberal arts provide a frame of reference that enables students to put learning in an interdisciplinary context encouraging questioning and, thus, critical thinking," Hoppe said. "A strong background in the humanities, the arts and the sciences prepares students with knowledge needed to live and work in the global environment of the 21st century.

"Austin Peay's mission distinctiveness has never been more important or more timely than it is today."