Davis & Elkins College is a private, residential, faith-based, liberal arts institution. Central to our mission for the past 120 years has been a commitment to the liberal arts, meaning an expansive intellectual grounding in all kinds of humanistic inquiry. There is a power and practicality to this type of education that is central to our curriculum at D&E. I take issue with those who downplay its importance, and I proudly serve as an apologist for its vitality and centrality to a promising future.

Consider the following four statistics and the powerful case they present for the liberal arts. First, according to a recent speech from a leader at Xerox, more than 50% of the jobs in the next 20 years do not now exist. Second, The Washington Post reports only 27% of graduates work in the field of their college major. Third, an Oxford University study predicts 47% of our current work will be automated in the next decade. Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects today’s College graduates, on average, will have 12 jobs in multiple industries over the course of a lifetime.

The days of the masses going to school to be trained for a lifetime “job” are nearing their end. Technology and automation (including Generative AI), coupled with the rapid pace of new discoveries, and the changing global economy all make new demands and create new opportunities for higher education.

The broad-based type of education known as the liberal arts is increasingly being recognized as the surest bet for the complexities of the 21st century. Borrowing from the Association of American Colleges and Universities: “A liberal arts education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest.” The ability of graduates to write, synthesize information, and problem solve is in high demand. At its heart, the liberal arts provide the necessary skills to navigate the uncharted waters of the coming decades. Today’s students and tomorrow’s workforce needs to learn how to employ reason, communicate, think logically and critically, and explore a sense of wonder. These skills will prepare tomorrow’s workers for the jobs yet to be created, and the ability to change jobs and industries.

Now more than ever, education should be the top priority of our society to prepare our citizens for a future of rapid change, and to ensure our country remains a beacon of innovation and an economic engine for the world. A recent national poll determined more than 50% identified higher education as a negative impact for our country. This is a highly troubling trend, and nothing could be farther from the truth. A well-educated populace is the key to our future, and our national priorities should be reflective of this reality.

Davis & Elkins College stands as a beacon of hope and promise. The education that occurs within our classrooms and beyond is equipping our next generation of leaders. I am proud to be associated with this College and urge all alumni and friends to join me as apologists for the vital liberal arts education offered here. It is transforming lives.

The journey continues….

Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College