A 1967 Whitworth alum oversees human resources for 90,000 employees in the aerospace and defense industries. An '87 alum holds a senior position with Microsoft, creating open international software standards with companies worldwide. A '91 alum leads brand, product, marketing, PR and packaged goods business for Seattle's Best Coffee. An '06 alum publicizes movies produced by major Hollywood studios and is founder and CEO of an online public relations practice. These four Whitworth graduates are successful entrepreneurs and leaders in the corporate world. How many of them majored in business? One. That's the beauty (and brains) of a Whitworth liberal arts education.
With national unemployment hovering around 9 percent and a high unemployment rate expected for years to come, college students are worried about finding jobs after graduating, and many liberal arts institutions are shifting away from the humanities – the study of literature, languages, philosophy and history – and are tailoring their curricula toward industry-specific skill sets. Yet Whitworth is actively deepening its commitment to providing students an education grounded in the liberal arts: One of the university's eight goals in its recently launched Whitworth 2021 strategic plan calls for the university to further elevate a liberal arts education as essential and relevant to all majors and careers.
The liberal arts reach across traditional academic boundaries, connecting and integrating multiple disciplines and schools of thought. Through joint courses, interdepartmental faculty/student research projects, and interdisciplinary majors and programs, students engage with a broad body of shared knowledge and learn how to think, not what to think. They become equipped to analyze issues from a variety of perspectives, ask questions that yield fresh insights, make unexpected connections, synthesize diverse ideas and information, and communicate clearly. Students develop mental focus and flexibility, as well as capacities for innovation, sound judgment and creative problem-solving that are critical to addressing the world's increasingly complex problems. A liberal arts education trains students in specific fields, yes, but students also acquire transferable skills that are critical to adapting to the 21st century's unprecedented pace of progress and change.
A Whitworth liberal arts education is distinctive in part because it challenges students to engage contemporary issues with intellectual rigor through the lens of Christian faith. In Whitworth's required Core courses, students explore the external forces that have shaped their worldviews, expose their most deeply held beliefs to scrutiny by others and themselves, and apply their worldview convictions to society's most pressing ethical and political issues. When Whitworth students graduate, they are prepared to excel in and influence industries and professions that will test their mettle.
Primal de Lanerolle, '68, majored in English and chemistry at Whitworth, earned a master's degree in English literature and a doctorate in physiology and pharmacology, and is now a professor of biophysics. "My Whitworth liberal arts education, rather than preparing me for a specific career, gave me the tools to be successful at virtually any career," he says. (See De Lanerolle's "AfterWord" in this issue.) De Lanerolle and thousands of his fellow Whitworth graduates are using the tools of their Whitworth liberal arts education to address current and emerging challenges in wide-ranging fields including science, technology, health care, government and education. Here are four alums who are putting their Whitworth liberal arts education to work as critical thinkers and imaginative leaders in business.