The Dean's Welcome
Recently I put large posters in the window of the Dean’s office on the third floor of the Intercultural Center and outside the entrance to the offices in White-Gravenor. The poster asks the question: “Where can a degree from Georgetown College take you?” and answers “Anywhere you want to go!” The poster displays pictures of eight prominent alumni, indicates what they majored in when they were in the College, and states what their profession is today. The list reads as follows:
Antonin Scalia - History Major - Supreme Court Justice
Norah O’Donnell - Philosophy Major - MSNBC Correspondent
Ted Leonsis - American Studies Major - Owner, Washington Capitals
Malcolm Lee - English Major - Filmmaker
Alonzo Mourning - Sociology Major - 7 time NBA All-Star
John J. DeGioia - English Major - President, Georgetown University
Lisa Murkowski - Economics Major - U.S. Senator, Alaska
Bradley Cooper - English Major - Actor
The point of the poster is to convey to current students, perspective students, and parents that a degree in the traditional disciplines offered in the College does not limit one’s possibilities for the future. Rather, a degree from the College prepares students to enter a wide range of professions and to succeed. In the College curriculum students move between language and culture courses, history, philosophy and theology, economics, physics, biology, chemistry, math, statistics, and computer science, classics, government, English, sociology, anthropology, art and art history, performing arts, linguistics, psychology and a range of interdisciplinary programs. What do they learn? Well, they learn facts and formulas, but more important, they learn how to think critically, how to analyze, and how to write. These skills transcend the disciplines and specializations that a major enables. They constitute the very foundation of education.
The acquisition of knowledge during one’s collegiate years is not the most important academic goal of undergraduate education. No, the most critical element is the ability to discover and create knowledge on one’s own and to do so across a range of disciplines. This requires skills that the College curriculum fosters. Students must be capable of moving from one discipline to another as well as making connections between them. The cognitive skills they acquire in the process will last a lifetime.
As I travel the country and the world representing Georgetown College and meeting with successful alumni, I frequently ask professionals what skills they are seeking in those they hire. They want candidates who can think critically, analyze complex data, and write clearly. They also, of course, want people who can relate to others well, have a clear sense of their values, with good character, a strong work ethic, and the ability to adapt.
I regularly encourage our students to pursue their passion in college, not simply to choose courses and a major solely with their career in mind. Some careers, such as medicine, require early identification and adoption in college. But many do not and limiting one’s exposure to a wide range of disciplines and knowledge can be confining in the long run. Once one has identified one’s passion, however, it should be pursued to the full, taking advantage of research opportunities, internships, and focused effort to become accomplished in the discipline.
Georgetown College presents a balance between the breadth of knowledge that the 21st century will demand, and the depth that qualifies one’s expertise. Current students know this well. Those who are considering applying to Georgetown College are on the path of joining a vibrant intellectual community characterized by passion that matches the talent of our exceptional student body.
Dean, Georgetown College