Career in Professional Courses: Liberal Arts
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Career in Professional Courses: Liberal Arts - We bring you expert insights on Career in Liberal Arts which help you in experiencing the joy of diverse learning. Read here to know the courses offered and career prospects in Liberal Arts.

 

Imagine an academic exam that doesn’t pose bookish questions. You only have to write a theatrical dialogue between classical political theorists. Prof. Malvika Maheshwari of Ashoka University’s Political Science department gives open assignments and exams where students creatively apply knowledge to understand particular theories. For instance, how will political thinkers like Mill, Hobbes or Rousseau observe the recent debate over beef issue? It’s a gratifying moment for Prof. Malvika when students exhibit Mill’s mind in the dialogue with a libertarian approach. “It’s heartening to see students negotiating between popular understanding vis-à-vis critically thinking about the subject. I want to experiment every possible idea with students to critically come  to a conclusion.”

 

Breadth-driven approach

Liberal Arts programmes allow students to explore a wide range of disciplines in one go and make an informed choice of their focused subjects. They pick a broad range of major or minor subject areas ranging from Literature, History, Sociology, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Economics, and Psychology to Political Science.

Interactive-learning-sessionAnu Singh, Associate Dean for UG studies at Ashoka University informs, “The focus on super specialization doesn’t exist here. We look at in depth independent learning along with exposing students with other ways of thinking. Unless you feel every subject, you may never know what may become your real passion.” The liberal feature gives students the freedom to customize their own programme – combining Psychology with Economics or History with Political Science.

 

The interdisciplinary learning enhances textual analysis of the subject. “Liberal education has more of a breadth-driven approach. The obsession with one subject is not very productive, so we must spread out,” shares Prof. Saikat Majumdar who teaches World Literature at Stanford University and is a visiting faculty at Ashoka University. Prof. Majumdar explains the transition of knowledge process from school to college level. “You are a consumer of knowledge at school level and graduate college gives a platform to produce knowledge. Here, you are an original contributor.”   

Tech quizzer from school days, Anirban Kundu was bent on doing majors in Computer Science, but the moment he sniffed the world of economics, his priorities changed. “I plan to do majors in Economics as until third semester you can play around with your majors. I was intrigued about crypto currency like how it can affect the economy. I want bring up my technology start-up along these lines,” shares Kundu.   

 

Shikhar Goel who is pursuing MA in Historical Studies from Nalanda University had opted for BA Economics course at Social Science & Humanities (SSH), Ambedkar University that exposes students to Humanities, Social Sciences and Mathematical Sciences. Apart from Economics, he did courses in English Literature, Sociology, History and Psychology. “Interdisciplinary learning introduced me to the idea that there are multiple ways of knowing and dealing with a situation. It has made me realize how things are connected with each other and how we should take insights from as many vantage points as possible,” says Shikhar.

Dr. Maya DoddDr. Maya Dodd

Head of Department of Humanities,

FLAME University

Through diverse interdisciplinary knowledge the student gets the ability to reason through various issues, ability to identify intersections between various disciplines, relate concepts and theoretical frameworks to the world 

Liberal model picking up

Liberal Arts combine everything, even sciences and mathematics.  “At UG level, you cannot have education in isolation. The boundaries between science and engineering are getting blurred, becoming increasingly diverse. Technologists have to confront social issues related to poverty, inequality, disaster recovery in high and low-income countries. Today’s engineers have to deal with the issues of public interest, understand social and political impact,” opines Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, Director, School of Natural Sciences/School of Engineering & Dean of Research & Graduate Studies, Shiv Nadar University.   

Liberal studies came from the West, mostly from the US colleges. In India, the spark of liberal pattern of knowledge has gained attention in small pockets like Ashoka University, Ambedkar University, Shiv Nadar University, OP Jindal Global University, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Tagore University and Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts. 

 

sharing-a-platformUnique learning

Dr Maya Dodd, Head of Department of Humanities at FLAME University and Prof. Denys Leighton, Dean, School of Social Sciences & Humanities (SSH), Ambedkar University compares Liberal Arts graduates with typical humanities graduates. “Through diverse interdisciplinary knowledge students get the ability to reason through various issues, ability to identify intersections between various disciplines, relate concepts and theoretical frameworks to the world,” says Dr Dodd. She emphasized on the fact that the students learn much more than that for typical BA papers.  “Liberal Arts is not really structured towards any particular profession, but it makes well rounded individuals who can choose their path. We are encouraging students to make choices of subjects prematurely,” opines Prof. Leighton

“We expect very high standard academic writing from students. Since Indian school system doesn’t focus much on writing, we have a Centre for Writing & Communication (CWC) where every student meets a tutor to get help with their own academic papers,” adds Anu. Learning the art of effective communication and writing are crucial components of Liberal Arts programme. CWC tutors address the diverse writing needs of in-house undergraduate students of Ashoka University. The engagement ranges from one-on-one tutoring, and group sessions to workshops.

When students get assignments from respective professors, they book an appointment with tutors in the software called CWC online. In the 45-minute slot, students share their draft and discuss shortcomings in the presentation.  “We have a typical American communication model catering to academic writing. We not only give feedback on language and grammar but also structure, coherency and argumentative feature of the paper. We enhance their research skills on how to write paper, pick secondary data from various online sources like JSTORE, project store. Students learn how to make a citation, different documentation styles and avoid plagiarism,” shares Satyendra Singh, Senior Writing Coordinator, CWC, Ashoka University. Nine tutors at CWC represent different fields of writing expertise, ranging from academic writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences to Journalism and Science Writing.

Prof. Denys LeightonProf. Denys Leighton

Dean, School of Social Sciences
& Humanities (SSH), Ambedkar University

 

Liberal art is not really structured towards any particular profession, but it makes well-rounded individuals who can choose their path. We are encouraging students to make choices of subjects prematurely

“Master’s-level research writing resonated in UG level itself,” says Akshaya Patnaik, BA Sociology Hons alumnus from Ambedkar University. He took minor courses in History, Psychology, Indian Drama, Early Childhood and English. Of these courses, the real calling came from Indian theatre studies. Post Bachelor’s, Akshaya opted for Shiv Nadar University to pursue 1-year PG course in Applied Theatre. He is simultaneously browsing options for a fellowship abroad to extend his global theatrical knowledge.

 

Interactive model

“In India, the pedagogy is never well thought, it is all content-driven. Liberal Arts takes a leap in introducing serious interactive pedagogy,” opines Saikat. Typically, the class strength in the Indian university system is huge, 60 or sometimes even 80 to 90. Comparatively, the academic class strength is smaller in unique liberal structures.  Akshaya recollects one of his lectures from Early Childhood course. The professor changed the traditional typical row-wise sitting space. The class space accommodated around 30 students who were always instructed to sit in circle. “Once we were asked to introspect on our childhood and demonstrate lullabies that stuck somewhere in our minds. It was quite strange, yet a sensitive moment for all of us,” says Akshaya.    

“My teachers designed their own courses, classroom was a democratic space where every opinion was respected, and in fact it was stupid not to ask questions,” shares Shikhar.  

 

EXTENSIVE  collection of booksThe universities with liberal studies foster critical thinking and creativity together, cutting across boundaries that may be intellectual, cultural and sectoral. “I teach like a historian as there are no textbooks in the class. My history class is much beyond the dates, names, events – a conceptual course where they are trained to think and write like a historian. You learn the process of looking at past,” informs Dr Aparna Vaidik, Associate Professor of History at Ashoka.  “In the academic essay, students have to come up with some historical research problem where you have to be careful about the idea of time. After first assessing the writing, we give them creative assignment on historical topics, either on personality/event or ideology. It helps to know how much students absorb from class. One student wrote about how he felt to be a part of the crowd that was participating in the French Revolution.” 

 

At FLAME, students are encouraged to go through project-based learning – writing blogs, visual essays and making short films that help in creative skills alongside critical analysis. The library has an extensive database of journals for research-based education.

 

How to enter?

What liberal studies programme expects from a candidate is to have a curious mind, craving to learn more. In addition, a good academic record from class 12 exams from any stream is a prerequisite. At FLAME, alongside cut-off criteria, the FEAT admission test is followed by GD, personal interview and Statement of Purpose (SOP) to assess the candidate’s willingness for learning and imagination. 

 

Real challenge

All professions are changing and education is trying to keep pace with the changes. “The challenge we face is to showcase the long-term benefits of a liberal education to parents in shaping their children into leaders of tomorrow,” says Dr Maya. The real gain of the programme is that you get a strong foundation in a range of subjects that enable you to choose the right career.

 

So the job prospect of the course depends on the range of academic pursuit you opt for. “You have to dispel the fear of gaining a job. What counts is that you have to be good in everything. My subject will find place in civil services, law, international relations, journalism, think tanks and NGOs. So options are wider than typical graduate programmes,” says Prof. Malvika.

Dr. Rupamanjari GhoshDr. Rupamanjari Ghosh

Dean of Research & Graduate Studies, Shiv Nadar University

 

You cannot have education in isolation. There should be a fair mix to be relevant in the fast changing society. The boundaries between science and engineering are getting blurred. Technologists have to deal with the issues of public interest, understand social and political impact

As per 2012 NASSCOM Report, only about 25% graduates in India were found employable. The major reasons for low levels of employment are lack of communication, leadership and analytical skills. Dr Ghosh says, “Most colleges don’t know how to prepare students for the job market. The best way to achieve is to train them to acquire right skills.”

 

Liberal Arts degrees are finding space in the employers’ radar. “Today companies require people who think abstractly, have conceptual abilities. One must be able to think critically and analyze problems with solutions and most importantly can communicate effectively. A Liberal Arts graduate will surely continue to be in demand,” says Prithvi Shergill, Chief Human Resource Officer, HCL Technologies. If Liberal Arts education succeeds in India, it will largely benefit the corporate that are struggling to get smart and competent personnel.  

 

Ideal choice

Liberal education is a way towards creating a reflective society, ready to engage with the world, surely leading to make good citizens who are free from dogma, from controls, constraints. A liberal model is the need of the hour for education spaces that are plagued by poor quality. “Liberal education is a safe bet in today’s world,” sums up Prof.Leighton. 

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