Advantage: liberal arts

An apprenticeship sounds great, until it isn’t.

That was the headline on a recent CNBC article that included comments from Wheaton President Dennis M. Hanno explaining why an apprenticeship program is no replacement for a high-quality liberal arts education.

The cable news network article was prompted by a recent federal government proposal to expand apprenticeship programs as a way to prepare more citizens for jobs.

President Hanno pointed out that current students need to prepare for the jobs of the future, rather than the work of the present.

“A narrow, vocational focus may not be helpful in such a rapidly changing world,” he said. “We know that the knowledge and broad skills that are gained from liberal arts study provide flexibility to keep learning and adapting.”

Wheaton’s approach to the liberal arts incorporates one principle of apprenticeships, however: the value of active learning. Classes across the curriculum involve hands-on projects, from serving as marketing consultants for startups and small businesses to providing research assistance to art museums and scientific labs.

In addition, President Hanno pointed out that Wheaton guarantees funding that enables students to participate in an internship or similar real-world work experience before graduation.

“Internships add value to a liberal arts education. Students develop broad skills and knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences, and an internship allows them to apply those skills in a work setting,” he said. “It makes an enormous difference in their learning in the classroom and their success after graduation.”

Wheaton invests more than $1.2 million per year to provide internship stipends for students participating in a wide range of experiences each year. The stipends ensure that all students are able to participate in internships, regardless of their socioeconomic status.