School of Arts & Sciences
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day"
Welcome to Marymount University’s School of Arts and Sciences! As you decide what to do with “your one wild and precious life,” consider the possibilities found in our programs. Here, faculty and students engage with the natural world and humanity’s past and present achievements within it; we learn more about the physical world around us through science and mathematics, and through the humanities we study and connect with what people thought and did in the past, and what we are doing in the present.
In fifteen undergraduate and two graduate degree programs, faculty teach and students acquire skills vital for making a living (thinking critically and analytically, synthesizing information, communicating effectively both orally and in writing, problem-solving, empathy, and creativity) even as they engage with issues of fundamental human concern. Literature provides a way to explore our own values and understand the values of others as we follow characters in their struggles, and ask ourselves: “What would I do in that situation?”
The humanities and natural sciences are important parts of Marymount’s liberal arts education. At a time when automation and artificial intelligence are changing the nature of many jobs, employers are looking for people trained to think both critically and creatively. Many business leaders now emphasize the need for oral and written communication and adaptability (“soft skills”) and predict that the job market will favor majors that develop these, such as English, philosophy, and foreign languages; creative, critical thinkers “who improvise in ways robots cannot.” A liberal arts education develops a skill set that helps people learn, adapt, understand diverse perspectives, and work in a variety of careers.1
The enduring value and application of literature (storytelling) to daily life is shown in initiatives such as those exploring combat trauma with war veterans through staged readings of ancient Greek tragedies followed by discussion. History shapes our lives: we understand our present only if we understand the past and how cultures construct it (how different countries teach about World War II, for example). Literature, philosophy, and theology allow us a multi-faceted exploration of the human condition and to study the Catholic and other religious traditions and systems of thought to create a better world. Glenn Seaborg, arguing in front of a Senate committee for the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities sums up the importance of this effort: “We cannot afford to drift physically, morally, or esthetically in a world in which the current moves so rapidly perhaps toward an abyss. Science and technology are providing us with the means to travel swiftly. But what course do we take? This is the question that no computer can answer.”
In the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, by studying STEM subjects together with the humanities, students ‘cross train’ their brains, a great preparation for helping to chart our world’s course. This Core is fundamental to the Catholic tradition, part of what makes a Marymount graduate distinctive. In all majors, students can work closely with faculty mentors in research, such as digital humanities projects (English), charting the growth and migration patterns of sea turtles in Belize (Biology), and creating card games that help students learn complex reactions (Chemistry). Students also complete internships related to their majors in the DC Metro area: Politics majors have gotten highly competitive internships with the State Department, for example.
Majors such as Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Interior Design, and Media Design develop and incorporate creativity and problem solving, preparing students for jobs that while involved with beauty and aesthetics can also improve lives in a practical way such as designing individualized gowns for hospitalized children, or a day spa specializing in treatment for people with multiple sclerosis. Our students engage in service learning; Communication and Media Design majors have worked with community partners to produce videos and design social media websites for nonprofits, and to teach computer skills to immigrants.
Understanding that there is a critical shortage of people with foreign language skills in the United States, Arts and Sciences offers minors in Spanish and French, and lower-level courses in German. In addition to being one of the best ways to learn empathy and cross-cultural understanding, foreign language skills lead to jobs in health administration, businesses in the global economy, K-12 education, law enforcement, and government. All students have the opportunity to gain international experience through Marymount’s global education initiatives.
I hope you will explore the varied majors in Arts and Sciences that offer students the opportunity to develop their minds and selves and to become independent, reflective, ethical, critical (and self-critical) thinkers and lifelong learners. Follow your passion and study what you love, knowing that only 27% of college graduates work in jobs directly related to their college majors, but instead use the transferable skills developed in their majors and through core curricula to work not only in today’s jobs, but also in the jobs of tomorrow.
Dr. Christina Clark
Dean and Professor
1 See the Business Insider (2/17/2017) interviews with Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and chairman of AXS TV) and Shon Burton, CEO of HiringSolved (3/2/17, from which the quotation comes).