Colgate’s CDNE Program Good for Liberal Arts

Meg Savin

When did all this pressure begin? Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday my professors, family and friends were reassuring me that it should be of no concern if I were unsure about my major. I was told I would have plenty of time to “explore,” “learn who I am” and “grow intellectually.” Just 24 months later my friends are preparing for the LSATs and MCATs, my professor is asking me what I plan on doing with my life and my dad tells me in his reassuring way that it’s “pretty damn scary” that I am thinking about redirecting my career goals. Questions begin to pervade my mind: will I make the right decision in choosing a career path? How do I know if the decision is right? Are the skills and knowledge that I have acquired over the past two and a half years at Colgate truly marketable? Ultimately, was choosing a liberal arts education the right choice?Much discussion has recently swirled around this last question. I cringe in embarrassment as I realize what an uninformed high school junior I was when the college search began. I was completely content in accepting the fact that I was heading to a small liberal arts college in the northeast. Investigating what exactly this liberal arts thing meant was not atop my list of priorities. Now, in looking over my resume and preparing for interviews in hopes of landing a worthwhile summer internship I cannot help but ask “am I marketable?” Sure, I can explain the various theories revolving around the mysterious death of President Habyarimana that instigated the Rwandan genocide or the subtle anti-religious references evident in Diderot’s Dictionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Arts et des M?etiers if you asked me to, but how can this knowledge help me in the real world?A friend of mine recently talked about interviewing for a position with an investment banking company, feeling completely lost because the terminology that the interviewer tossed at him was jargon that only an undergraduate business major would have studied, not an economics major at Colgate who had spent an equal amount of time on Frederick Neitzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals as the stock market. So how do we ‘Gate kids compete against those who have studied the ins and outs of marketing, advertising and business at other universities and who seem poised to jump into a CEO position?It is a question that the others at Colgate are concerned with as well. Evidence of this is seen in the initiation of Colgate’s Career Development for the New Economy (CDNE) program. The class, taught by Colgate alumni who have willingly donated their time is designed to give students some career direction. The class also advertises itself as a means to help students get a leg up in an ever-evolving job market. CDNE, which I am currently enrolled in, gives us tips on how to write cover letters and handle various types of interviews as well as how to present ourselves in the interview. The small college that confidently told me to focus on expanding my base of knowledge over the next four years now seems to be equally concerned with the fact that perhaps some of this time should have been spent learning the practical skills that will get me ahead in “real life.” It has me wondering, is Colgate still confident in giving the advice to focus solely on its liberal arts curriculum and not on classes where one might acquire more applicable knowledge with the tough economy that awaits us upon graduation?Perhaps I am exaggeratingl, because if Colgate’s confidence is waning, it’s sure not helping mine. Maybe the implementation of programs such as Career Development is simply Colgate recognizing that courses should exist for those students who are particularly anxious to get some guidance on the more practical steps to securing post-graduation plans.In speaking with a classmate recently we came to the conclusion that, like everything else in life, moderation and balance seems to be the key. It’s great to take classes at an undergraduate institution that we will never have the opportunity to take again such as “Gay and Lesbian Identities through the 19th and 20th Centuries” or “Italian Cinema.” After all, these are the classes that study classic themes of humanity that are timeless. The works studies in these courses can speak personally to us and relate to our lives currently. We can learn about “who we are.” In my mind it seems there is no doubt that students can take away a tremendous amount from enrolling in courses such as these. Simultaneously, however, it may be worthwhile to enroll in a practical course here and there, be it focusing on investing, business or even a how-to in starting and running one’s own business. I am not advocating that Colgate revamp its curriculum to fit this model, but am reflecting on my college choice and where it will take me.So ultimately, did I make the right decision in choosing Colgate? I’ll let you know in five years.