A liberal arts degree from UC Irvine can be a foundation for a career in many fields, but UCI administrators admit that simply doing well in classes and graduating without work experience is not enough to secure a good job.
Meredith Lee, professor of German and dean of undergraduate education, explains how she believes UCI prepares students for future careers.
‘[I] think that the best way to prepare you for a career, in many cases, is to make sure you become an articulate, critical thinker who understands the various disciplinary dimensions of knowledge,’ Lee said.
According to Lee, in order to prepare students for life after college, UCI strives to provide students with the general skills they need to survive in the ‘real world,’ instead of preparing them exclusively for a specific career path.
‘[We teach students] how to ask questions … how to communicate well, how to write and speak well and how to move in the global world in which we participate,’ Lee said. ‘We think that [teaching these skills], rather than a narrow sense of preparing for a career, will serve them better.’
Lee said that administrators are continually working to ensure that students are receiving an education at UCI that prepares them for careers.
In April 2003, Executive Vice Chancellor Michael Gottfredson, acting on a request of then UC President Richard Atkinson, began work on the creation of the Task Force on Undergraduate Education. This task force was intended to guide UCI in making improvements to undergraduate education and to increase faculty involvement in undergraduate teaching.
‘The recommendations that came out of [the task force] were on the role of the major, on revising breadth requirements, on thinking about research and creative activities and how they should be part of the curriculum of undergraduates,’ Lee said.
The task force is still in its early stages. Other meetings are being scheduled to increase awareness of the task force and to stimulate campus discussion. If enacted, the task force is likely to go into effect in fall of 2006.
Some students believe the major that they select will force them to go into a career directly related to their major. However, Career Center counselor Yas Djadali reminds students that they do not necessarily have to go into the field in which they have a degree, but should develop skills from their experiences outside of the classroom.
‘Having a major and being enrolled in a bachelor’s program allow employers to know that [a person has] a foundation for learning,’ Djadali said. ‘A lot of times, [employers] will look at experience you have had and what transferable skills you have developed. … Your major does not equal your career.’
In addition, Djadali said that current employment trends suggest that employers do not hire applicants specifically because of their major.
‘People change careers so often that it is not like employers will say they want a specific major, unless they are looking for someone with a technical degree,’ Djadali said.
According to Djadali, graduating with a liberal arts degree provides students with a wide range of career opportunities, with the Career Center available to assist students.
‘When you come into the Career Center to see a counselor, we are not going to have a specific plan mapped out for your particular major,’ Djadali said. ‘We will take your experience and what type of career you are interested in getting involved in, and then show you how to create your resume so that we can draw out those skills you have developed that are transferable. … [The process] is very individualized.’
However, it is up to students to complete the internships and gain experience to allow them to stand apart from other applicants for the same job.
Students realize that graduating without any work experience is not enough to secure full-time employment.
‘The fact is that employers are looking for people with experience,’ said Eileen Rosete, a second-year Asian-American studies major. ‘What’s the use of good grades if the student does not know how to apply the knowledge in a practical setting?’