Liberal arts alums tout benefits of their degrees




Four liberal arts graduates returned to campus last week, testifying to the value of their degrees.

The College of Liberal Arts and Education (CLAE) hosted an alumni panel discussion March 15 on the value and versatility of a liberal arts education. 

The panel consisted of four alums whom all had different liberal arts degrees from the University.

CLAE Dean Mark Denham opened the discussion with remarks about the old joke that liberal arts majors do not go on to a job.

“There’s a story going around the world, actually, that if you’re a liberal arts major, you’re not going to get a job. Or if you’re going to get a job when you graduate from college, you better major in something that is very clearly going to get you a job,” said Denham. “That is fiction. If you are going to be successful in your lives, you have to be able to think well and think on your feet.  We preach regularly that liberal arts teaches us how to think and how to be.”

After Denham’s remarks, Sean Novak of CLAE introduced the panel of alums.

Kathleen Walker, a current employee of the university, graduated in 1990 with a degree in education. 

She talked about her struggle as a psychology major, and not being able to pass the intro-level class. 

She changed her major to education, and went on to become a teacher, principal and campus minister before returning to UDM to work in the Student Success Center, but has since moved to become the head coordinator of the engineering and science BUILD program. 

“The liberal arts portion of my education was a gift that exposed me to so many different things, and I got to develop so many different parts of my life,” said Walker. “I was able to develop myself socially, spiritually, and the people here made me feel like this was where I belonged. I’m home, and welcome to my home.”

Bob Sadler, a communication studies grad from 1988, discussed his work as a public relations professional in both profit and non-profit sectors. 

“The ability to think and approach a problem is something that is very important in the professional world. I don’t think anything prepares you better for that than a liberal arts education,” he said. “Also, the ability to write and communicate is the hallmark of a liberal arts education.”

Along with his long tenure at the non-profit Detroit Historical Society, Sadler has also returned to UDM as an adjunct public relations professor.

The most recent alum, Molly Redigan, graduated in 2010 with a degree in English. 

She has since come back to UDM to earn a master’s in architecture and community development. 

“When you’re reading about or studying psychology or sociology, what you’re really doing is learning how to walk in someone else’s shoes and empathize with that person,” she said. “I have applied that in design. The empathy and understanding in thinking about what I read in undergrad has really helped me with that, even beyond a professional standpoint.

“Just being able to be understanding can help you be a better spouse, parent or whatever your professional trajectory is, it will just make you connect with whomever.”

Thomas Page, who graduated in 1971 with a degree in industrial/organizational psychology, reflected upon his degree choice. 

He gravitated toward law enforcement and worked in that sector for most of his life. 

He worked for the Detroit Police Department before moving to the Los Angeles Police Department, from which he retired. He has since returned to Detroit. 

His love for urban studies remains strong, and he still works with law enforcement regularly.

“I really followed my interests, and it has been very serendipitous,” said Page. “I found things that I loved and went with them.   All my high school buddies went on to be attorneys and ‘make money,’ but most of them now are fairly miserable. The ones who went for things because they were a passion are much happier. Money is not everything.”