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Improving Public Understanding of Liberal Learning

An inventory of skills

When you complete a liberal arts education, at least two things will have happened. One, you will have been prepared to lead a more enriched life; two, you will have acquired a group of skills which enable you to solve problems, communicate effectively, and perform complicated tasks. These skills are essential in a career, any career. This inventory lists the skills that faculty at the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM) expect students to acquire in the process of their liberal education.

The UMM inventory reinforces conclusions which have been drawn by experts all over the country. Educators, business and industry leaders and placement counselors all agree; a liberal arts education is a good investment.

This inventory was compiled using information collected through a survey on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Morris. A list of important and commonly agreed upon career skills was circulated to faculty in each of the disciplines on campus (speech, mathematics, history, etc.). Faculty were requested to rank each skill according to three criteria: all students studying in the discipline are likely to acquire the skill; most students studying in the discipline are likely to acquire the skill (more than 50%); or few of the students are likely to acquire the skill through study in that discipline.

Conclusions were drawn based upon the collected responses. For example, if a significant number of faculty from all disciplines indicated most or all of their students were likely to acquire a certain skill (such as managing time effectively) then it could be said that all liberal arts graduates at UMM were likely to acquire that skill regardless of their major field of study. Those skills which all liberal arts students share are listed in this brochure.

Faculty were also asked to identify skills which students studying in an individual discipline might acquire that students in other disciplines might not acquire; skills which are peculiar to an individual discipline. That more detailed inventory is available upon request.

Skills common to Liberal Arts graduates

Listed below are skills which 90% of faculty surveyed indicated all or most students were likely to acquire through classroom instruction, co-curricular or extracurricular activities.

Leadership/Management Skills

  • the ability to analyze
  • the ability to apply data
  • the ability to identify critical issues and make decisions quickly and accurately
  • the ability to identify problems and needs
  • the ability to identify priorities and parameters
  • the ability to initiate projects or ideas
  • the ability to make decisions
  • the ability to manage time, energy and resources effectively
  • the ability to organize
  • the ability to work in a self-directed way

Communication/Writing Skills

  • the ability to comprehend written material
  • the ability to describe objects or event with a minimum of factual errors
  • the ability to listen objectively
  • the ability to report accurately
  • the ability to summarize
  • the ability to write effectively
  • the ability to write factual material clearly and concisely

Instructing/Educational Skills

  • the ability to hear and answer questions perceptively
  • the ability to explain
  • the ability to instruct
  • the ability to teach a skill, concept, or principle to others

Research/Analytical Skills

  • The ability to analyze and evaluate ideas and presentations
  • the ability to analyze the interrelationships if events and ideas from several perspectives
  • the ability to apply appropriate methods to test the validity of data
  • the ability to apply information creatively to solve specific problems
  • the ability to compile and select information
  • the ability to formulate questions to clarify a particular problem or issue
  • the ability to review large amounts of material and extract the essence
  • the ability to sort data and objects
  • the ability to use a library and research facilities