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Student exemplifies Whitworth's liberal arts education

Rebecca stands in front of a brick wall and smiles.When people learn that Rebecca Korf, '15, is majoring in biochemistry and minoring in philosophy, they usually express surprise. Korf claims, however, that integrating the two fields makes her a better scientist.

"The current conversation about education tends to focus on things like starting salaries or test scores," Korf says. "There is an assumption out there that liberal-arts students flounder in the job market, but an education in the liberal arts is anything but useless."

To make her case, Korf wrote an essay, "Liberal Arts in the Parks," which took first place in the 2013 Washington Consortium for the Liberal Arts College Essay Competition. In her essay, Korf writes that an education in the liberal arts connects and integrates multiple disciplines and schools of thought, and challenges students to stretch themselves outside their intellectual comfort zones, which helps them develop critical thinking, reasoning, and communication skills that they can apply to every aspect of their lives, professionally and personally.

In Korf's summer job as a national park ranger, she has discovered just how valuable and applicable her Whitworth liberal-arts education is to real-world experiences. While assisting with an ecosystem restoration project, she identified a disconnection between scientific researchers and graduate students, who had difficulty communicating their findings, and the rangers working in education, who lacked the training to understand what they needed to communicate.

"As a science major, I had taken enough courses to understand the science," Korf says, "and my general education classes had given me the communication skills to explain these concepts. I found myself working between the two groups, bridging the communication and understanding gaps in an area of great scientific and cultural importance."

Whitworth is the perfect environment to nurture a liberal-arts education, Korf says. "Whitworth's mission statement, at its core, exemplifies the liberal arts. By focusing on the dual purposes of educating the mind and the heart, the university commits itself to ensuring that students are equipped to serve in whatever situation they are called to."