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March 27, 2018
Knox College President Teresa Amott says that liberal arts colleges are the best preparation for the careers of the future. Speaking to more than 225 business and political leaders and educators at the City Club of Chicago, one of Illinois's premier public affairs forums, Amott focused her remarks around the power of a liberal arts education, showcasing how it challenges and encourages students to be creative and confident people who possess critical thinking and analytical skills and prepares them for not only their first job, but also their last job, as well as for careers that do not yet exist.
"Our graduates are sought after by employers because they bring the skills of the future into the workforce," said Amott.
Amott's remarks were part of the talk "What Employers Want, We Do: Liberal Arts and Workforce Development," given February 21 at the City Club of Chicago. Presenting with Amott was President of Millikin University, Patrick White.
Amott noted that institutions like Knox and Millikin prepare students for future careers, some of which won't exist until after they graduate, such as app developer, drone operator, and sustainability manager.
"We really believe that we prepare young people the best for the future by preparing them for jobs that do not exist today," Amott added. "[Knox and Milliken Colleges] are nothing if not flexible, nimble, and adaptable, and so are our graduates."
According to research by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, employers are looking for employees with strong oral and written communication skills as well as analytical and critical thinking skills; who are innovative and have ethical judgement; who can solve complex problems; and who can apply their knowledge to real-world situations—all strengths of a liberal arts education. Employers also look for employees who can work well in teams, especially with diverse teams.
"Diverse teams, where people bring different perspectives to the table, produce better problem solving, they are more creative, and they are more innovative," said Amott. "The students on our campuses who are interacting daily with people not like them work really well in these diverse teams."
Amott also argued that because a liberal arts education involves broad training in a variety of subject areas, students learn how to apply their skills through experiences such as internships, study abroad programs, research, and community-based learning.
"This is how we teach," she said. "We take our students out of the classroom and we put them in places where we can use their learning. Right away. We don't wait until they graduate. We do this almost on day one."
The evidence, according to Amott, shows that higher education pays a remarkable return, with graduates being sought after because of what they can offer to an innovative, changing job market.
"Employers are interested less in what a student majored in than in the fact they have a combination of specialization and breadth. It is that combination that is the special alchemy of a liberal arts institution," she said. "You learn how to focus on one thing, learn it well, but you are always looking at your major, your field of expertise, in this broader context, and that broader context enriches your major and allows you to take those learnings into the future."
Dr. Amott received her bachelor's degree in economics from Smith College and her Ph.D. in economics from Boston College. She began her professional career at Wellesley College then held academic appointments at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Bucknell, and Harvard. Amott was Vice Provost at Gettysburg College from 2000-2005 and Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges from 2005-2011. In July of 2011, Dr. Amott became the first woman to serve as president of Knox College.