Updated: Nov 16, 2020
While I welcome Kenneth Adams, the new president of LaGuardia Community College, and wish him good fortune throughout his incumbency, his business background troubles me. Adams comes to LaGCC after a tenure as the dean of workforce and economic development at Bronx Community College (BCC) and following an extensive career leading large agencies in New York State. His success as a fundraiser is unquestionable. At BCC, he raised nearly two million dollars for workforce training and career services initiatives, while increasing Continuing Education enrollment by 45 percent and revenue by 15 percent. However, what concerns me about Adams’ mission is the culture of prioritizing skilled labor over education. In his first official statement, Adams said, “LaGuardia is uniquely positioned to support the city’s recovery by training and upskilling workers who have lost their jobs and preparing students for new fields and emerging occupations in a post-COVID economy” (“Press Information”). As someone who is deeply committed to strengthening high-quality public education and an advocate for Liberal Arts in higher education, I fear this approach of favoring low and mid-skilled labor training may harm the Liberal Arts curriculum even further.
The purpose and value of a Liberal Arts education have long been debated in the United States. At a time when funding for higher education is often deflected to other priorities, today a Liberal Arts education might find itself questioned more than before, and that is troubling. It is hard to convey the value of Liberal Arts culture because the many benefits cannot be narrowed down to one single explanation. In the essay “The Landscape of Liberal Arts,” author Mark W. Roche highlights the value of an education in Liberal Arts. Among other points, he mentions its intrinsic value, “the distinction of learning for its own sake, the sheer joy associated with exploring the life of the mind and asking the great questions that give meaning to life.” I agree with Roche’s vision of a
Liberal Arts education being an end in itself and would challenge the notion of education being primarily a means to an end. Roche further explains that Liberal Arts promotes “the cultivation of those intellectual virtues that are a requisite for success beyond the academy” and how it fundamentally advances “character formation and the development of a sense of vocation, the concentration to a higher purpose or calling.” A Liberal Arts path allows students to gain in-depth knowledge of the humanities, the arts, and the sciences while providing the foundation and the freedom necessary for an individual to excel as a person and member of society.
The aim of Liberal Arts is human excellence, and one way to pursue that trajectory is by becoming life-long learners. The main objective is to see students succeed in being productive individuals and create communities where people experience a life with purpose, an existence with meaning. Life-long learners can tap into the teachings of the Liberal Arts to further personal transformations, think laterally, take risks, and bet on change. Students of Liberal Arts are challenged to connect and express reason, knowledge, logic, rationale, analysis, intellect, and creativity comprehensively, not remaining niched within a single field of vision or opinion. A Liberal Arts education teaches the value of versatility, a mastered skill we could benefit from throughout a lifetime.
My non-academic education has been along the lines of Liberal Arts. By pursuing a career in film and journalism and exploring the global fields of the arts, media, and information, I experienced different realities and gained knowledge from various perspectives. That choice was not accidental. I have always been interested in learning, and my broader lack of knowledge incited curiosity, which eventually led me to my interest in storytelling. Perhaps I could describe myself as an unconventional person who lived an unconventional life. Two central themes cemented my fate in pursuing a universal experience: my passion for travel and the unknown. My personal and professional path gradually led me to many cultures around the world, and, indeed, I would define myself as a global citizen. I am a member of a worldwide community contributing to building a world of better social values and practices.
We live in an era of global interconnectivity, and whatever we choose to do locally will, somehow, affect others nationally and even internationally. We must understand how our local decisions have global consequences — in public health, the rule of law, environmental protection, human rights, religious freedoms, gender equality, sustainable economic growth, protecting food supplies, or poverty alleviation. A Liberal Arts education steers students towards global knowledge, a worldly conversation, and engages the student body in an inclusive, open-minded, and non-judgmental process of learning. By becoming more aware of what goes on in the world and other cultures, we raise new generations of well-rounded and well-informed thinkers
I am an accurate representation of life-long learning, and I look forward to being part of a proactive circle in the Liberal Arts. A group of people who believe in the Liberal Arts education, a community eager to learn how to navigate complex problems in a world of multiple realities, capable of thinking critically, communicating ideas effectively, and working successfully with others. I hope the new president will keep in mind the long-term purpose and benefits of the higher education curriculum when making decisions bound to affect the lives and future of thousands of New Yorkers members of the CUNY community.
About the Author:
Valerie Pires is a Freshman at LaGCC currently pursuing a degree in Liberal Arts, Social
Studies and Humanities, Journalism. Next year, she will transfer to a senior college to earn a
dual-degree in Film & Media Studies and Journalism.
Roche, M.W. "The Landscape of the Liberal Arts."; New Directions for Community
Colleges, 2013: 3-10. doi:10.1002/cc.20065.
“Press Information: Kenneth Adams is New President of LaGuardia Community
College.“ LaGuardia Community College.