When I left Illinois State University for a post at Bentley University three years ago, it raised a few eyebrows among the liberal-arts colleagues I was leaving behind and at the business university where I would become their dean of arts and sciences.
I left because I was frustrated that students — even those who were able to get jobs doing what they wanted to do — had very little practical sense about how to advance in their career paths. When you pursue a passion in the humanities or the arts or social sciences, you make a series of choices that cut off some options. A high salary can be among the sacrifices. And today, when parents and students invest so much in a college education, graduates need to be able to not only land a job, but build a career and a life worth living.
Talking about a return on the higher-ed investment may seem out of place for a linguistics scholar. But it is based on experience. I spent three decades living among the Pirahã people of the Amazon rain forest to inform groundbreaking linguistics research, and I value that. I also came to recognize that I wanted a higher standard of living. Becoming dean of arts and sciences was a way to have both, and we should be presenting similar opportunities to students. <Read more.>