Most university students are rightly concerned about how their education will relate to their earning a living. At some point, after all, you will graduate and need to find a job. But this genuine concern can lead to an overemphasis on skills training, and to a narrow view of higher education. To be sure, our graduates apply their skills directly in fields such as journalism, publishing, and education – to name just a few. But we think there is more to university education than just getting a credential and landing your first job.
Our department asks its students to think about personal and career development in a broader way. In studying languages and literature, you will develop your creativity, your critical thinking skills, and in so doing you will learn to express yourself with elegance and insight. These are skills that will enhance every aspect of your life, including your working life.
In fact, studies show that most people end up working in a field other than the one they originally trained in. Why study for a specific career, when in ten years you are likely not to be working in a field directly connected to your major? Moreover, while graduates in applied fields may get a boost in their early careers, research has shown that liberal arts graduates catch up to and eventually overtake applied business and technology grads in the money that they make. Why? Because as their careers advance, the specific business and trade techniques they learned in school become obsolete, but the higher-order skills such as the ability to argue persuasively and think imaginatively will always be in demand.
Sure, we would say that, wouldn’t we? We’re English and French professors. We have to say that, right? Well, consider the words of banking executive Wayne Fox: “Debits and credits, torts and mechanical systems are very useful things to know about, but literature, language, anthropology, political science, history, theatre — these are things that challenge accepted truths, encourage original thought and cultivate compassion. At this point in our world’s history, I can’t think of any better investment than this.”
Similarly, consider the conclusions of education researcher Tony Chambers whose work showed that the choice of major is less important than how you approach your work, no matter what your guidance counsellor told you: “The dirty little secret is that those who care about learning get the best jobs.”
We care about learning. We care about your education. We care about your future.
Junior High Teacher
First Nation School
Attended CBU: 2004-2007
Favourite Courses: Shakespeare, Renaissance Drama and Modern Drama
“As an English major at CBU I was able to delve into the minds of people like William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Oscar Wilde. I learned an immense amount about different times, places and individuals and I loved every minute of it!”
The Music Biz
Web-based management for artists and music industry professionals
Attended CBU: 2002-2006
Favourite Course: American Fiction
“I have no doubt that the small class sizes in both first and upper year courses at Cape Breton University contributed to my acceptance and success in graduate school”
Coordinator of Cape Breton University’s Writing Centre
Attended CBU: 2000-2004
Favourite Courses: Shakespeare, Modern Drama, Contemporary Drama, Modern British Novel, Modern Celtic Literature, honours thesis
“I liked English because it challenged me and made me a more critical thinker and a better writer.”