Verbum Ultimum: A True Liberal Arts Mission

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 7/14/16 6:00pm

Dartmouth’s mission statement says that the College “educates the most promising students and prepares them for a lifetime of learning and of responsible leadership.” The faculty, for the most part, prepare us by teaching students how to think broadly on a large range of issues. Yet the Center for Professional Development promotes the idea that there are only a few opportunities out of college, namely finance or consulting. As a college that touts itself as a liberal arts school, Dartmouth must extend its career services so that it truly prepares all students for “a lifetime of learning and responsible leadership.”

As corporate recruiting picks up speed, this issue becomes more salient. For a student hoping to enter finance or consulting, one’s options seem limitless — top banks visit campus to hold informational sessions, the CPD holds workshops geared toward polishing applications and Dartboard, the College’s internship and job-hunting website, has a section dedicated specifically to the recruiting program. For a student studying English and looking for another career path, however, one’s options seem much more bleak. On Dartboard, there is currently one company searching for (unpaid) editorial/writing interns, one company searching for (again unpaid) legal interns, and only five companies searching for government interns.

The attention surrounding corporate recruiting and the paucity of career services for other professions can make students who are unsure about their future careers believe that finance is the only smart choice. This creates a feedback loop — as more students see finance as the only feasible option, more students participate, and the emphasis on this sector grows year by year. Between 2002 and 2013, when the number of government and history majors stayed essentially the same, the number of economics majors almost doubled. In 2015, 31 percent of seniors went into finance, and 19 percent went into consulting. This growth is disproportionately large in comparison with other peer schools. Over the last five years, the number of seniors at Harvard University going into finance and consulting has remained fairly steady, at a little over 20 percent. Yet at Dartmouth, the number of seniors entering finance and consulting went from roughly 20 percent in total in 2010, in line with Harvard, to the current level of over 50 percent of seniors. Such a disproportionate percentage of students going into finance and consulting points to a self-fulfilling feedback loop as corporate recruiting is increasingly seen as the only sensible option for many. The CPD’s constant focus on recruiting, instead of promoting balance, feeds into this loop.

An increase in economics majors and students interested in corporate recruiting is not inherently negative. The College, however, should not continue to dedicate what seems like a disproportionate amount of resources to such students while neglecting others. This allotment sends a strong signal to incoming students that this path is the only one they can take.

Some argue that Dartmouth is just listening to its students. They note that fully half of Dartmouth graduates go into finance or consulting, so it makes sense that Dartmouth would spend the majority of its resources on helping students in that path. Yet providing services for one group of students should not overshadow opportunities for students going to other popular fields. Roughly 9 percent of the Class of 2015 went into education-related jobs, yet Dartboard currently has only eight education companies searching for interns.

Dartmouth does have other resources. Resources such as the Women in Science Project, the Dartmouth Center for Service and the Rockefeller Center fund various unpaid internships. But the College does not prominently feature them, and they are generally targeted toward a niche audience. Even with these opportunities, the College still lacks satisfactory advisory resources for options as common as law school and graduate school.

In the end, focusing career services so heavily for one field contradicts the point of a liberal arts college. Dartmouth claims to focus on broad general knowledge applicable to all fields rather than on placing students on a specific professional track. The strong emphasis on consulting and finance makes it much more difficult for students hoping to pursue other careers and majors to do so. Dartmouth needs to return to its mission statement’s promise by providing and promoting resources for a variety of career options rather than perpetuating a culture where only a few options seem viable. In focusing so heavily on a select few career paths, the College perpetuates the idea that there are only a few sensible careers. And by catering to only a small subset of its students, it denies the majority the equal resources and advising all students deserve.

The Dartmouth Summer Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, the Executive Editor and the Opinion section of The Dartmouth.