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MU humanities opens doors, fills wallets

By James Steinbauer
On April 15, 2014

Everywhere on campus, Miami University students see signs advertising Miami's No. 1 ranking in Ohio among public schools for best return on tuition investment with 98 percent of business graduates either hired or earning a higher degree.

However, business and engineering majors, look out-that stereotypical anthropology major joke might no longer be as funny as it used to be.

According to the 2014 Payscale.com College Return on Investment (ROI) Report, Miami University ranked second nationally among both public and private universities for return on investment of graduates with a major in the humanities.

But what exactly does this mean?

"One of the biggest misconceptions that has flourished, especially at Miami, is that there is a strict relationship between a student's major and their career," Director of the Humanities Center, Tim Melley, said. "The pathways for degrees within the humanities center are really diverse."

There are a lot of humanities majors who don't go on to careers that seem like the "traditional humanities job" such as teaching English or anthropology.

A recent study by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found the overwhelming majority of employers are desperate to hire graduates who have "a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems." Exactly the types of skills that are associated with the humanities, said Melley.

Damon Horowitz, the Director of Engineering at Google, recently explained, "You go into the humanities to pursue your intellectual passion; and it just so happens, as a by-product, that you emerge as a desired commodity for industry."

Companies like Google are actively pursuing Humanities majors and Google's Marissa Meyers recently stated that Google "will be hiring about 6,000 people this year - and probably 4,000-5,000 from the humanities or liberal arts."

Some notable humanities graduates who went on to be leaders in the business world include Sam Palmisano, Former CEO of IBM and history major, Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and philosophy major, and A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G and French major.

Conversely, Frank Bruni, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times took a different view on Payscale's report.

"What a ludicrous list...," Bruni said. "What does it tell you? That the colleges at the top have the most clout and impart the best skills? Or that these colleges admit the most young people whose parents and previously established networks guarantee them a leg up?"

However, Jonathan Wheeler, a Miami graduate and first-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania, expressed that it was his literature major which has given him a leg up.

"The humanities enabled me to approach what I do in law school, such as assessing cases, from multiple angles," Wheeler said. "Cases that you read in law school are a lot like what you'd read in a literature class--stories that need to be effectively read and analyzed."

Another Miami graduate, Jennifer Sandel, said her major in the humanities has been the key to her success.

"I've been asked many times to define American Studies," Sandel said. "For me, the more important thing to focus on is how American Studies has defined me. The program touts the slogan 'Create Your Own Future.' Nothing could be more appropriately descriptive of the experience I've had."

Sandel has worked at Nestlé for three years as part of the sales development program. Nestlé's selective recruiting process contained over a thousand candidates, one-third of whom were humanities majors said Sandel.

"I think that great communications skills and the ability to connect the dots is what really set me apart," Sandel said.


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