H+ Symposium Highlights Market Value of Language Study

PROVO, Utah (January 30, 2014)–“We are in the middle of a revolution.” That’s what

Hans Fenstermacher
, CEO of
Global and Localization Associations
, told a select group of
industry, government and academic leaders at a Humanities+ symposium
held at Brigham Young University. And for students in the
College of Humanities, this type of revolution is good news.
Fenstermacher was referring to society’s growing use of social
media and information technology, and how language is the new oil –
language runs everything. As international communication increases, so
does the demand for language skills, and students
in the College of Humanities, particularly those pursuing foreign
languages, are showing that they can meet those demands.
The symposium reflects a joint initiative sponsored by the College of Humanities and the
Humanities Center.

Tony Brown
, Associate Professor of Russian and symposium organizer,
wanted to organize a conference to discuss how to bridge the humanities
with industry, government and other fields.
“Why not coordinate what
we’re doing here in the humanities with engineering, for example, and
give our students the best of both worlds,” Brown said.
For Brown, the symposium
was all about determining the market value of studying a foreign
language and finding a way to present that to the rest of the world. He
said that right now, the humanities can only assume, relying largely on
anecdotal evidence
to understand outside demands. “We had to start somewhere,” Brown said.
The symposium was that
starting point – where leaders of industry, government and academia
could determine the market value of what is learned in the humanities,
particularly the value of advanced level foreign language skills. “Once
we identify specific
skills that employers want from students,” Brown said, “we can build
curricula that meet industry demands.” By doing so, the humanities
benefit industry, which in turn, fuels interest back into the
As Dave Waddell, Assistant
Dean in the College, put it, the symposium “opened the door wider on
humanities and the world of work.”
This symposium, Waddell said, “informed us, as deans and administrators, of the conversation and the need for languages.”
The symposium’s
conversations are significant for students within the College. Brown
noted that “students were the driving force for organizing this
symposium because, ultimately, they stand to benefit from a symbiotic
relationship between the humanities
and the professional world.”
Ray Clifford, Director of
BYU’s Center for Language Studies,
said that the symposium emphasized this need for a bridge between
humanities and the professional world. He encourages students to “find a
way to enhance their
marketability by demonstrating how their experiences in the humanities
have given them the skills that are needed in today’s society.”
The symposium underscored a
growing need for proficient foreign language skills. Brown reiterated
that for students, “A humanities education, particularly with an
emphasis in foreign languages, gives one a competitive advantage when
applying to professional
schools and to any number of jobs in the private and public sectors.”
The symposium is not the only initiative the College has supported to help students achieve their professional
goals. Humanities+ provides internship, study abroad and career opportunities. The Center for Language Studies offers
Language Certificates
to document students’ second language proficiency, not just for
humanities majors, but for all BYU students. “There are more than enough
opportunities to
learn language and cultural competencies if students want it,” Waddell
said. The College of Humanities, he continued, “is actively invested in
the future of the students. And that’s what this symposium was about.”
Presentations from the symposium will be available soon on the College of Humanities YouTube channel – visit
–Stephanie Bahr Bentley BA’ English ’14

Americans Need More Humanities Training Claims David Rubenstein

“Speaking on a panel at the World Economic Forum, Mr. Rubenstein, the co-chairman of the private equity
firm, said American policy makers and educators have put too much of a
focus on the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
at the expense of the study of literature, philosophy and other areas in
the humanities.”

“Humanities teach problem-solving skills that enable students to stand
out among their peers and to achieve success in the business world, Mr.
Rubenstein said. Career-specific skills can be learned later, he said,
noting that many of Wall Street’s top executives studied the humanities.”

read here: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/carlyle-co-founders-formula-for-success-study-the-humanities/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=2

Scientific American on Why Scientists Need the Humanities

Students in science and engineering often feel that required courses in the humanities are a waste of time. They would avoid them if they could. Here is a scientist who explains how deep familiarity with the classic texts in the humanities generates and maintains a healthy skepticism that scientists need in order to avoid self-delusion and hubris. Read here: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2013/06/20/why-study-humanities-what-i-tell-engineering-freshmen/

Recent Study Reconfirms What We Know

A recent study, based on a survey of 50,000 employers, makes two crucial points that every college student be aware of:

“An internship is the single most important credential for recent college graduates to have on their résumé.”

“Internships present a paradox. While a college degree delivers higher earnings over a lifetime, it is often internships that start graduates on their way. And yet the experiences unfold almost entirely outside traditional academic bounds.”

Read about the study here: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Employment-Mismatch/137625/#id=internships

Why Are Many College Grads Not Hired?

There are many reasons. But this report focuses on the unexpected ones, such as the lack of soft skills like interpersonal communication, office relations, critical thinking – i.e., skills that are likely to be developed and enhanced by studying the humanities. Also missing is the internship experience.

“One thing that does appear to make a difference is internships, according to a Harris Interactive survey of
more than 2,000 college students and 1,000 hiring managers on behalf of
textbook company Chegg: more than 80% of employers want new grads they
hire to have completed a formal internship, but only 8% of students say
interning in a field related to their major is something they spend a
lot of time doing. Instead, the top extracurricular activities are
hanging out with friends, working in an unrelated job and eating out.”

Recent Study of Liberal Arts and the Market

Burning Glass conducted a study of liberal arts majors and employment data. There is good and bad news. The bad news is: the unemployment rate for liberal arts grads is higher than for several other majors. The good news, however, is that the marketplace is looking for a mix of liberal arts and technical skills. Liberal arts and humanities students who are not pursuing graduate or professional study should heed the message: minor in a technical or business related field and do internships. The study claims that this combination yields demonstrable results.

read here: http://www.burning-glass.com/Liberalarts/BGTReportLiberalArts.pdf