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Andrew Olson, Published December 10 2013

Letter: Liberal arts studies vital to an education at MSUM

While following the now national discussion of Minnesota State University Moorhead’s proposed solutions to a budget shortfall, I couldn’t help but be dismayed at MSUM’s stance towards the departments (and faculty) that make up the liberal arts because it is a disservice to the most important element of the university: the students.

In an article from the Star Tribune, MSUM’s President Edna Szymanski is quoted as saying that students “are voting with their feet in terms of what majors they’re taking. I believe universities have to be responsive to students.”

My feet led me to MSUM, but only after my grandmother stepped on the campus while the university was still known as Moorhead Teacher’s College, and after my father attended the university himself. As I approached my college years, my father would tell me stories of his years at MSUM and most of those stories revolved around English instructors and classes at MSUM.

The dedication that MSUM exuded towards the liberal arts along with its student-focus was what led me to MSUM as an undergrad and then again as a graduate student. The liberal arts faculty at MSUM, from the first day that I walked onto campus, supported and mentored me (and countless other students) well past my graduation and into my adult years. The officials at MSUM have the opportunity to truly enrich and carry on this tradition rather than simply increasing foot traffic.

New eye-candy across campus, like the rock wall mentioned by Slate’s Rebecca Schuman, and an emphasis on new, burgeoning majors may lead to increased enrollment on campus, but retention of those students and their future success certainly requires more. While complaints of substandard writing and critical thinking skills continue to plague both graduates of college entering the workforce and high school students yoked with standardized tests entering college, MSUM has the chance to stand against the tide and ensure that their students are well rounded and able to apply themselves in a variety career fields, regardless of their major.

The dedicated faculty members that comprise the liberal arts are amongst the most vital to assuring that such success continues at the university.

One need to only review any alumni publication to see the immense effect the liberal arts has had on students and the MSUM community, regardless of the tallied number of feet.

Olson, Miami, is a MSUM alumnus.