Expand your perspective: Consider a degree in the liberal arts
All students will eventually take classes pertaining to the liberal arts over the course of their college degree. After all, the University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences holds more than half of the general education courses required to graduate.
But while liberal arts courses are an essential component of every discipline, you will find they are even more fulfilling as the focus of your academic journey. The liberal arts are not only rich in interesting subject matter on all aspects of the human condition — from the survival mechanisms of Guam’s earliest inhabitants to what influences the decisions of people in society today — but they also have practical applications in a breadth of meaningful and rewarding careers.
Let’s look at why liberal arts may be the path for you.
Artemia Perez, an anthropology major and dual CHamoru studies and sociology minor, who graduated in 2020, stands in the Guam Museum, where she interned her senior year to gain a deeper understanding of her island’s history and its people.
“I was a declared music major, [… and] I realized the skills I learned in music could
also be applied in my communication courses.”
Because the liberal arts encompasses a wide range of subjects, students often find that liberal arts programs and tracks work hand-in-hand with other degree programs. Krystal Paco-San Agustin, a 2011 dual major graduate who earned the alumna award for the college in 2019, decided to become a double major after making connections between two fields that interested her.
What she learned about stage performance she was able to apply to a job as a news anchor. Similarly, what she learned about communication, she was able to incorporate into another job as an instructor at the University of Guam.
Looking back on her robust career in the span of 10 years, she says her double major in the liberal arts “was one of the best decisions of my life.”
As students explore different subjects alongside liberal arts subjects like history, psychology, and political science, they unlock new ways to understand and solve issues and become more well-rounded.
Alumna Artemia Perez, who earned her bachelor’s in anthropology in 2020 along with a double minor in CHamoru studies and sociology, found that understanding the history and culture of her community was an asset for any career path.
“Pursuing CHamoru studies only betters your experience at UOG because you learn more
about the culture, the island, the people that you’re going to end up helping if you
stay on Guam,” she said.
School of Education students develop a paradigm for teaching a lesson in the classroom. Liberal arts studies can enhance any major’s ability to think differently and creatively to solve problems.
“These are the arts and practices that set the mind free from prejudice and allow
freedom of thought and expression.”
A liberal arts education can teach students to navigate through various expressions of thought and confidently convey their own creative ideas.
James Sellmann, dean of the college, says the liberal arts path helps improve aptitude in oral and written communication, critical thinking, and deciphering information.
“These are the arts and practices that set the mind free from prejudice and allow freedom of thought and expression,” he says.
In humanities and social science studies, students are challenged to construct new paradigms of thinking in order to understand and resolve personal, community, political, and environmental problems.
“By being exposed to various disciplines and different ways of thinking, it generates experiences where students must be creative and innovative in how they solve problems and communicate with others,” Associate Professor of Theater Michelle Blas says.
Ultimately, a dive into liberal arts will help one keep an open mind and change for the better, Blas says.
“It deepens a student’s awareness and compassion toward humanity, creating more avenues
to connect globally with each other — in turn helping to make this world a better
place,” she says.
Students learn about Balinese cultural dress and traditions during the UOG sociology program’s Bali Field School in 2019.
“Many of the theories and skills I learned in UOG’s psychology program assisted me
in analyzing life from a broader picture of a society.”
Studying the liberal arts reveals the complexity of being human. This umbrella of studies helps bring to light the social, environmental, physical, and health problems faced in Guam, Micronesia, and worldwide. Students can then construct solutions from the skills they develop in class.
Sellmann categorizes these skills by each division within the college. The fine arts programs teach innovation. The various humanities programs teach how humanity can adapt and flourish in local, regional, and global communities in the face of existential challenges. And the social and behavioral sciences teach the understanding and development of individual and community ways of thinking and living.
Paul Lazarra, a 2015 graduate with a bachelor’s in psychology, says his experience at the college enriched his self-awareness so he could better understand and relate to others and their experiences.
“Many of the theories and skills I learned in UOG’s psychology program assisted me in analyzing life from a broader picture of a society,” Lazarra says.
The sociology program at UOG organizes the Bali Field School, a two-week learning experience immersed in the Balinese culture. The students live with a local family, meet community organizers, and explore topics like cultural identity, grassroots movements, and the community’s approach to tourism and sustainable living.
The experience inspired Perez and her classmates to become more deeply involved in their own community. She said her experience studying anthropology, CHamoru studies, and sociology brought her to understand that cultural preservation starts by strengthening and empowering the community and everyone in it.
Overall, Sellmann says the liberal arts cultivate a different kind of student: “A
dynamic leader and bold thinker empowered to respond to present and future challenges.”
UOG alumna Krystal Paco-San Agustin, second from left, with her fellow news anchors on the KUAM News set in 2019. Paco-San Agustin has found that her dual bachelor’s degrees in communications and fine arts have been complementary assets in her career path.
The various disciplines in the liberal arts equip students with skills that can be applied to many jobs, Sellmann says. These valuable traits range from critical thinking to perspective and understanding to strong interpersonal skills.
As a musician, journalist, teacher, and now communications director for the governor of Guam, Paco-San Agustin’s two liberal arts degrees have equipped her for a versatile and productive career.
For Lazarra, the psychology program launched him into the Master of Arts in Counseling program at UOG, which he now puts to good use in his occupation as a school counselor who assists youth prepare for life after high school.
Other CLASS graduates are now:
Meta Sarmiento, a 2012 English alumnus, delivers an inspirational talk on the TEDx stage in 2017 in Denver.
If you are looking for an area of study that nurtures your personal growth, challenges you to be a critical thinker, and trains you to be a seasoned communicator, look no further than the liberal arts.