What are the benefits of a Liberal Arts Degree, particularly one in our Letters and Science Honors Program? Below you will find the answer to this question from several voices: faculty and former honors directors, current students in the program, employers and community leaders. UW Faculty Speak UW Students Speak Employers Speak Community Leaders Speak Alumni Speak


UW Faculty Speak

  1. William Cronon, former Honors Director & faculty in the department of History: 10 Qualities of a Liberally Educated Person

UW Students Speak

Employers Speak

Percentage of Employers Who Want Colleges to "Place More Emphasis" on Essential Learning Outcomes[1]          

Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World[2]

                   Science and technology: 82%                                                          

                   Global issues: 72%                                                          

                   The role of the United States in the world: 60%                   

                   Cultural values and traditions (U.S./global): 53%       

Intellectual and Practical Skills                                                         

                   Teamwork skills in diverse groups: 76%*                                  

                   Critical thinking and analytic reasoning: 73%   

                   Written and oral communication: 73%       

                   Information literacy: 70%                                                      

                   Creativity and innovation: 70%                                                         

                   Complex problem solving: 64%                                                          

                   Quantitative reasoning: 60%                  

Personal and Social Responsibility    

                   Intercultural competence (teamwork in diverse groups): 76%*                 

                   Intercultural knowledge (global issues): 72%*                           

                   Ethics and values: 56%                                                       

                   Cultural values/traditions (U.S./global): 53%*                                 

Integrative Learning                                                          

                    Applied knowledge in real-world settings: 73%

*Three starred items are shown in two learning outcome categories because they apply to both.   

[1]: This information was taken from the Executive Summary of the LEAP initiative, a National Leadership Council made up of University Presidents and CEOs, Presidents, and Vice Presidents of Major US Business and Corporations. 

[2]: These findings are taken from a survey of employers commissioned by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and conducted by Peter D. Hart Associates in November and December 2006. For a full report on the survey and its complete findings, see www.aacu.org/leap.

Community Leaders Speak

Alumni Speak

Roger Rathke, class of 1959, Journalism

Elsewhere on this L&S Honors website is -- together with other L&S sources -- a wealth of information about what L&S is. Its dynamic structure and educational offerings, its exceptional faculty and staff, its remarkable history, and much more -- all are detailed to provide the important facts about L&S.

But -- what's in all of that for you? How does L&S really prepare a person for the real world?

My professional field was marketing communications, including advertising. I studied advertising in UW-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communication (advertising is now part of their Strategic Communications curriculum). I learned the rudiments of the profession, which were well taught and which qualified me to get a good start in that field. But in addition to its "how-to" and "hands-on" aspects, the School helped me to understand why and how to have an open-ended range of interests and knowledge -- to be able to quickly adapt my thinking in order to successfully deal with a tremendous variety of businesses that needed my expertise -- to enjoy learning about those things, and to translate them into effective communications.

Perhaps I had some leanings in those directions before I got to college -- but there's no way I could have developed and channeled those leanings into a highly productive professional and personal life without the tremendous directional start, the richness of the intellectual exposures, and the immersion into what became a lifelong joy in learning that I got from my L&S education. I learned to both broaden and focus my curiosity -- how to be both expansive and discriminating in what I learned out there in that real world -- and how to convert all that into a career and a life. I'll say, immodestly, that it worked and I was successful -- and at risk of being trite, I was well prepared by my L&S education to do it my way.

Joel Skornicka, class of 1959

A solid liberal arts education can be the basis for post college career success and for a life time of intellectual stimulation. Whether in the private sector, the public sector, or the nonprofit sector of employment, a basic undergraduate curriculum in the College of Letters and Science at UW-Madison can provide students with the capability to analyze and to think about the environment in which they will spend the remainder of their lives. My learning experience in the College centered about a broad sampling of courses in the humanities, the social sciences, and the basic sciences. The interaction with a variety of students, faculty, and staff, both inside and outside of the classroom, made my undergraduate years the most rewarding period of my life.

Jerry Halverson, class of 1999, MD University of Wisconsin-Madison

I found my liberal arts education of great value, in fact, I use what I learned in college every day of my life. Having a broad base of knowledge and experiences has served me very well in my career in medicine. Having had courses like foreign language, philosophy, political science, rhetoric, economics and writing have given me invaluable tools that enrich my career. Foreign language courses helped me to experience and understand cultures that were very different from those in Wisconsin where I grew up. Those experiences have helped me understand and be more empathetic to my patients from different cultures. My philosophy courses taught me in many ways how to think through complex ideas and how to take in many types of conflicting information. In a career that is ever changing, like medicine, an ongoing skepticism and ability to process information has been a boon. My political sciences courses taught me the value of being active and how to advocate. I have used these skills to advocate for my patients and my profession at the local, state and national levels.     

I use my rhetoric classes every day when lecturing to students or attempting to convince my patients that my treatment plan is the best way to go. My economics courses have helped me to understand the world that I live in with why hospitals and insurance companies make the decisions that they do. My writing and literature courses have helped to me to write and publish papers in scientific journals. I have many colleagues that did not have the benefit of a liberal arts education (i.e. they had a very focused medical undergraduate experience) and they often miss the ability to see the whole picture- in a patient encounter, in a hospital or clinic scene, or a research protocol. Medical school and residency has provided plenty of time to hone in on the necessary knowledge and tools to become a physician. My liberal arts background has not only made me a better physician, but also a better communicator and a better citizen.