Navigating the Crisis in Higher Education

By Manfred Werner – Tsui (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Unemployment, student loan debt, and protest are colliding with rising education costs, endowment building, branding wars, and labor outsourcing. At this tumultuous moment in higher education, this course asks students to reflect on the fate of liberal arts education through a focused analysis of its past and present. Specifically, how do economic pressures and technological innovations impact the sustainability of liberal arts values such as social justice, serving the public good, and cultivating a “life of the mind”?  Students will debate and synthesize arguments about the value and sustainability of liberal arts education by viewing higher education from the perspective of private corporations, governments, college administrators, faculty, parents, and students. In so doing, students will learn to situate their personal experiences within broader institutional, historical, economic and political contexts. Through reflective essays that incorporate both primary and secondary sources, students will develop critical thinking skills, authorial voice, and a sense of ownership over their own education.

Making the Most of my College Experience

In order to make my college experience the best that it can be, I will take advantage of any opportunity I can get, and focus on doing things in a process oriented fashion rather than a results oriented fashion. I plan on doing as much as possible in my four years because I realize how short these four years can be. I have already set myself up for some great opportunities to be involved as much as possible by being a part of the baseball team and joining a fraternity. This has given me the opportunity to find career possibilities, chances to give back to the community and have a huge impact on the Occidental community and shape how Oxy operates and is viewed. As for the educational process, I will try to focus as little on grades as possible, because I don’t plan on going to grad school, so my grades shouldn’t be my biggest concern. My biggest concern for my profession is going to be whether or not I can accomplish what they ask of me as an employee, so I may just be better off sitting in my dorm doing logic problems all day instead of going to class. As enticing as that sounds, I would much rather go to class and develop my communication skills and learn about interesting subjects that may or may not pertain to my future profession, but will no doubt expand my mind and thinking abilities. I am not convinced that getting straight A’s is worth the work necessary for achieving that, especially at Oxy. From my conversations with friends at other schools, Oxy’s work load is significantly more than that at schools like Stanford, LMU, Santa Clara and Stevens Tech, which are all excellent universities with outstanding reputations. So from my perspective, doing all of the work assigned to me perfectly is not going to necessarily put me ahead of the pack, its just going to be more work and more time, so I might as well spend the time being efficient with what I am learning, and enjoying the process, because sometimes, less is more. I was told by an extremely successful man that I will learn significantly more outside of the classroom than I will inside the classroom, and I will only be successful in the real world if I realize that early, and adopt that mentality. Now, this is not to say that education is not important, it is, but it is important in the right light, and in the long run, the grades I receive will not be all that significant, and the extra work put in to get a better grade probably will not pay off. So I will and always will approach college as an experience to learn how to best be a human, and a human that understands cognitive and computer science pretty well, because nothing else matters so long as I get a somewhat insignificant piece of paper at the end of my four years.

A Classical Take on a Technical Experience

I see Liberal Arts shifting just as the rest of the world has begun to shift, towards technology. There is no reason that engineering and other technological sciences cannot be combined with the classical courses that Liberal Arts colleges have always offered. The goal of Liberal Arts schools is to give students the best experience that will prepare them to enter the world as fruitful citizens, and the fact that technology is quickly taking over our lives cannot be ignored. The only way that Liberal Arts students can keep up with the changing world is if the schools adapt to the world around them by integrating technology into the classes they offer and being effective in how they do it. I see the Liberal arts being able to prepare students for the skills they will need in the fields of engineering and computer science while still encouraging students to take a wide breadth of classes. Few of the Liberal Arts colleges offer these kinds of classes, when the job market in these industries are very lucrative. Schools need to take advantage of that, because the style of teaching at liberal arts is conducive to success in those industries. For example, large universities with really good computer science programs, like UC Berkeley, are going to have a lot of successful students because of the talent they bring to the program, not because of the instruction the students receive. At a Liberal Arts college, students are more likely to be in smaller classes and have more hands on training and opportunities for group work, which is exactly what they will be doing in their profession. So after receiving instruction during college, these students would theoretically be just as prepared if not more prepared as those at bigger universities. Also, at many of the larger universities, the entire computer science program was pioneered by a select few students in the late 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, and those programs thrive today because of the success of those few students, so all it takes for a colleges computer science program to be put on the map is a small group of students to have success in the industry. Many Liberal Arts schools have successfulI business and economics programs, so they should be able to have vocational training in these fields as well. I believe that Liberal Arts colleges will find a way to adapt to the new world while keeping their old practices and becoming preeminent in the largest industries we have today.


I am going to make the most out of my college experience by trying new things and testing my limits both physically and mentally. I hope to grow more as a person and build new friendships that will last a lifetime. College is supposed to be the best four years of my life. If I don’t do anything that will test my limits and make me a better person, then how will I ever know who I am? The friends I make in college could turn out to be future business partners, best men, or godfather. Currently, I am a starter on the Occidental Men’s basketball team and I plan to continue this role in my time here at Occidental. My goal is to win the NCAA Division 3 Championship. I also hope to get involved with the local community around Occidental and beyond, attempting to improve their lives with my presence. I want to leave my mark on the community around Occidental–improve the quality of environment and make something good come from my time shared. Another way I am involved with the Occidental community is through the Pre-health club. In time, I hope to be the president of the club and expand the club’s connections to the medical world beyond southern California and extend to northern California or even the east coast. Occidental has numerous opportunities for undergraduates that should never be passed up on. Students can do research with professors and develop that relationship to mentor status. Finding a professor or faculty member who can “show me the ropes” in the field of study I am interested in (Biochemistry/Cognitive Science) is essential to my success and development as a young college student. I believe that Occidental has and will provide me with these opportunities and it is up to me to seize them.



How will you make the most of your college experience?

Wow, that’s a big question. A part of me wants to say that by not knowing how I will do this is the way I will make the most of it. I am not the type to plan out my future or my life to the tiniest detail. I feel that leaving those details ambiguous will be the best part of my college experience. If I focus on staying on a narrow path, I would not be making the most of my experience.

One way I plan on making the most of my college experience is by trying new things, expanding my comfort zone, having an open mind, being positive, and really just dealing with things as they come. I plan on doing a range of things- making sure I gain new experiences and make connections. Networking is a big part of the college experience. It is the time where meeting people and starting new relationships are important steps.

Of course, another way I’d like to make the most of my college experience is by traveling and studying abroad. (My writing may seem a bit choppy, but this is how my ideas are coming to my head.) I am going to make mistakes, learn from them, sulk and regret them, but use them as opportunities to grow. I will use this campus and school as an open forum for me to express myself in ways I was too shy to do before. I am going to find new ways to just do me and be content with who I want to be and who I will be.

How will I make the most of my college experience?

As we have established over the course of this class, the future of education, specifically of the Liberal Arts education, is unknown. I am not sure if my degree will be valuable 20 years from now or even when I graduate. So as my oxy inbox fills up with emails regarding the latest events on campus and opportunities from the career development center, student run clubs, the office of student life and more. I feel a little bit overwhelmed as I’m not sure what I wish to do with my life after graduation so I’m not quite sure what opportunities I should take advantage of. Part of me feels that I should just go to as many info sessions and workshops as I can fit into my schedule, but in a way I feel that I would be able to make the most of my college experience if I had at least some clue as to where I can see myself in the future.

But until I figure that out, I plan to make the most of my college experience by just getting involved in whatever interest me. I feel that keeping an open mind and trying things out just for fun will be a great way for me to expand my horizons and I think ultimately will help m e figure out just what it is that I want to do with my life.  I also feel that it is important to not get caught up on my grades and my ranking in my class. While my GPA is important in terms of grad school and scholarship opportunities, at the end of the day it is just a number. I plan to focus on growing as a student and a person rather than making my GPA my sole focus. I will not be concerned with what makes me happy. I will not work hard to find an internship in order to be able to become more qualified for other jobs, but instead I will look for an internship that will allow me to reach out and make an impact in my community. I will not pick classes in order to get easy “A’s” but instead I will pick classes based on my interest where I will be able to learn more about something that I am truly interested in. If I do these things then the phenomenal resume and high GPA will come on its own.

How will you make the most of your college experience?

Every student has his or her own dream, and the best way to make the most of his or her college experience is to use as much resources at OXY as possible to fulfill his or her own ambition. As for me, my dream is to be a development economist and use my economic knowledge to help people in developing countries. But how to become a successful economist? The first step is to get admitted by a TOP ranked graduate program.

In United States, actually there are “too many” economists. In this sense, only the best of all could have a chance to become a star in academic circle. In order to do that, a competitive applicant must have a GPA at least 3.9 and has done many valuable researches with major in Econ and Math. Obviously, it is extremely difficult. After having a talk with department chair and several of my economic professors, I have made a possible way to fulfill my dream: combine the 3-2 program with Columbia and Oxy education, that is: to major Economics at OXY in three years and Applied Mathematics at Columbia in two more years. With the “brand name” from a IVY and solid education from OXY, I think my plan will work.

Some people might be curious about my decision: Why don’t you simply double major Math and Econ at OXY? Even LAC can provide better education even comparing to some IVY, for example, in my opinion, OXY can provide a better undergraduate education for students than Cornell.  However, a college’s strength can not be easily changed by a single student. You can not make Harvard admit 10 graduates from OXY only by student movement. The best, and the most effective way for a student to fulfill his or her own dream, is to use as much resources provided by the institution as possible. OXY has great education, lack kinds of brand name and history in applying prestigious Econ PhD program. Fortunately, the weakness of OXY is exactly the strength of Columbia.

This idea has also been described in my previous paper: only by studying hard and behaving ourselves, we can fulfill our dream and make the most of our college experience.

Making the Most of College

In the busyness of every day college life, it is often easy to forget just how privileged and lucky I am to be attending. As the sticker price of tuition continues to grow at an exponential rate, one’s time spent at college increasingly becomes a game of maximizing opportunities and success. By acknowledging this, I am given an even greater motivation to take advantage of the copious academic, extracurricular, and professional opportunities that are available at a college such as Occidental.

During one’s college career it is expected that they will exercise and cultivate their intellectual interests and abilities. Through reaching out to professors in office hours, I can get a more refined perspective of the material I am studying. In addition, the relationships I develop with professors can become extremely beneficial to my professional life; as they will the ones to communicate to employers or admissions committees my strengths and qualifications.

One of the most paramount skills one can attain from a college education is the ability to think critically. Because this skill is needed for almost every job that I will find in the future, I think it is crucial that I develop strong critical thinking skills through my coursework,  through advice from professors, and through interactions with my peers.

Although college is meant to be a time of preparation for the professional world through academically rigorous coursework and developing a well-rounded resume, I also believe it is crucial to one’s social development and growing as a person as a whole. By developing life-long relationships, I can grow from my peers and enjoy in their success as well as mine.

With such a diverse set of opportunities available at college, one can grow holistically and set themselves up for a successful future by developing intellectually and socially.

How I will make the most of my college experience

As Patrick Awuah spoke about in his TED talk, the best leaders are those who most effectively serve their people. During my college experience, I want to become the best leader that I can, I want to learn to take responsibility for others by empowering and guiding them. Through gaining knowledge of other people and their struggles I can learn about communities, experiences, and countries than I am not familiar with, and be presented with problems and create solutions to them. Through this I can become an empathetic and effective leader and agent of change. I want to accomplish this in college by taking classes that address social issues, connecting with the professors and students who care about these issues, and build relationships with those that are too struggling for justice.

Making the Most of the College Experience

In the busyness of every day college life, it is often easy to forget just how lucky and privileged I am to be receiving a college education. Because of the exponential tuition increases of the past decades, many prospective students have been forced to turn down their higher education pursuits. By acknowledging this privilege, I am further motivated to seek out the copious educational, extracurricular, and professional opportunities that a college such as Occidental provides.

While at college, one is expected to exercise and cultivate their intellectual self–both academically and socially. In an effort to do so, I can exercise the concepts that I learn in class in my everyday life. For example, if I am learning about US History, I can translate material learned in class to discussions with friends. In addition, to get the most out of college intellectual opportunities, I can seek out professors and office hours to get a more experienced and refined perspective on the topic of which I am studying.

How will I make the most of my college experience?

When choosing a college that I would be attending a year ago, I took many things into account—size, location, teaching quality, atmosphere, and much more. I ultimately chose to come to Oxy for its uniqueness. It has the best of both worlds, being a small liberal arts school in a large city (that also happens to have the best weather in the country.) So far, I think I made a great choice to come here! I have already had so many memorable experiences here. From the beginning of the school year, I made amazing friends that will probably lifelong friends. It’s really hard to find someone here who isn’t super friendly! My friends have helped shape who I am, and they have introduced me to many different cultures. They have helped me with homework, helped me through personal issues, and best of all have had fun with me. Living in Los Angeles, it’s very tempting to explore the city and take advantage of city life. My friends and I have been to restaurants around Eagle Rock and a few other neighborhoods of LA. We have also gone on weekend excursions to the concerts, the beach, and museums. Of course, college wouldn’t be college without the academics. I have had very engaging professors in a variety of intriguing disciplines, and class conversations and assignments have helped expand my knowledge and open my mind to new perspectives. All of this has happened in merely my first year.

During my remaining three years at Oxy, I plan on continuing to learn from professors and peers and to take advantage of the city around me. I want to go on several hiking trips before I graduate, go on a trip to Disneyland (I’ve been to Six Flags already). Also, since I’m living in California and hope to live here the rest of my life, I plan on learning how to skate or surf. If I have enough time, I would love to study abroad for a semester. Additionally, I plan on using the skills and knowledge I’ve learned at Oxy in summer internships (starting next summer). Though I will be focusing in on my major starting junior year, I hope to take interesting courses outside of my major. Oxy has an expansive course offering for such a small school. Finally, I hope to do research in computer science at some point in the next three years. If I am able to accomplish all of these things, I will have checked off everything on my college “bucket list.”