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Table of Contents

Choosing a College: Where Do I Start?

Navigating the Funnel

Perfect Fit

They Beg to Differ

What to Ask About Study Abroad on Campus

What's it Worth to You?

Surviving the Empty Nest: A Guide for Parents

Alumni Accomplishments

The Kenya Connection

Laurentian Reviews

Table of Contents

What’s It Worth To You?
The value of a diploma is measured in myriad ways.

By Rachel B. Peterson

Assessing the value of your education. It can be a challenging task. But if you, like me, are interested in figuring out what those four years at St. Lawrence were all about, it might be useful to start with a brush-up on what the University wants its students to get out of their experience. St. Lawrence’s “Aims and Objectives” statements says, “St. Lawrence seeks to provide an education that fosters in students an open, inquiring and disciplined mind, well informed through broad exposure to basic areas of knowledge; an enthusiasm for life-long learning; self-confidence and self-knowledge; a respect for differing opinions and for free discussion of those opinions; and an ability to use information logically and to evaluate alternative points of view.” Pretty lofty--but if you think about what all that means, you might realize that your knack for fiction writing or ability to counter a faulty argument didn’t materialize on its own. Chances are that your experience at St. Lawrence helped in some way to foster those abilities and interests you prize the most.

But what is the payoff? What do you, as a liberal arts graduate, have that others might not? What makes your St. Lawrence education so valuable? The answer is simple: a St. Lawrence experience equips students with the key skills and character traits that create exceptional work and working partnerships; but the benefits of these skills and traits also transfer into all aspects of a graduate’s life, from building rewarding personal relationships to accomplishing long-term life goals.

A recently published St. Lawrence brochure aimed at employers seeking to hire recent graduates cites the following skills and traits that its alumni possess: communication, honesty and integrity, interpersonal skills, teamwork, motivation and initiative, and analytical reasoning. These skills are also those most desired by employers. And they are certainly not learned in the classroom alone. Take a look at how your St. Lawrence experience might have helped you develop these skills and characteristics in ways you never considered.

Communication: The ability to express thoughts clearly is one of the most important skills a person can have. Beyond the First-Year Program, which stresses written and speaking skills, St. Lawrence expects writing to be employed in all departments. (So that’s what all those papers were for!) Maybe you held a leadership position in an organization, team or residence hall, or did you have the opportunity to present work at a professional conference? If so, you developed your ability to speak in public and communicate with a variety of people. And let’s not forget the student-run newspaper, literary journals and periodicals. All of these offer ways to learn to communicate effectively with peers, educators, and the community.

Honesty and Integrity: St. Lawrence students abide by an Academic Honor Code, which states that they are “bound by honor to maintain the highest level of academic integrity and encourage all others to do the same.” Violations are not taken lightly. Integrity, or adherence to an ethical and moral code to attain a sound sense of being, is fostered through a variety of organizations on campus. Did you take part in service organizations like Circle K, Alpha Phi Omega, or Habitat for Humanity? Did you contribute to the community as a member of a Greek organization? Participants in community-based service learning projects and in Thelmo develop the ability to make ethical decisions and care for others, two irreplaceable skills in today’s world.

Interpersonal Skills: You are never going to get away from people. So it’s a good thing St. Lawrence prepared you to interact with them. Your community assistant worked hard to create meaningful living-learning communities, connecting you to floor-mates as well as the campus community. Perhaps you were a teaching assistant, peer tutor, writing center employee, sexual assault advocate or orientation leader. And let’s not underestimate the value of daily social interaction. Research conducted by (student) and mathematics professor Patti Lock shows that St. Lawrence students are well connected to each other, with only three degrees of separation between any two students and with more than half the students within two links of all other students (look out Kevin Bacon!). Simply by living in such a close-knit community, you learned to interact with a variety of people, and that’s what drives society.

 Teamwork: The ability to work with others toward a common goal is essential in many occupations, and St. Lawrence provides many opportunities to develop this skill. Maybe you were among the 75% of Laurentians who play varsity sports. If not, maybe you were involved in one of over 100 clubs and organizations whose members work together to set up programs for the campus or promote a common interest. And many faculty members require their students to complete at least one group project. All of these are ways you might have honed that ever- important skill of working efficiently with others.

 Motivation and Initiative: Did you ever hike your way to the top of a mountain as part of Peak Weekend? Maybe you stood before Thelmo to get a new student organization approved. Volunteer activities such as blood drives, the Big Brother/Big Sister program and SLU Buddies are among other ways St. Lawrence students demonstrate motivation and initiative. Each year, the Leadership Academy trains student leaders to develop skills so that they can motivate others to get involved in their groups and successfully lead organizations. Most employers seek motivated employees who will take the initiative to perform when necessary. St. Lawrence produces such individuals.

 Analytical Skills: Analytical skill is not limited to working with numbers or scientific data. If you wrote a research paper, then you honed your analytical skills by gathering and analyzing information to determine how (or if) it fit your topic. Assessing a situation and choosing solutions to problems also require analytical skills. Leaders of organizations from Greek houses to Dance Ensemble to academic honorary societies spend plenty of time solving problems to help their organizations function better. These experiences are easily transferred to situations in the later workplace or everyday life. Figuring out the best car to buy or how to close a deal with a client requires those very same analytical skills that were put to work at St. Lawrence.

These skills and traits are the common outcome of most liberal arts educations. So what makes St. Lawrence different? I have become increasingly aware in the weeks since graduation of two things: the strength of our alumni network, fortified by an extraordinary sense of Larry pride; and the interdisciplinary nature of a St. Lawrence education.

A strong web of St. Lawrence alumni are willing to reach out to students and fellow alumni to provide career mentoring, advice, or good old-fashioned conversation. From coast to coast and even around the world, your chance of meeting someone with a St. Lawrence connection is uncannily high. With regional gatherings, the CareerSLUth mentoring database, and an online record of alumni e-mail addresses, it is simple to keep in touch with friends or make new ones.

Here is a suggestion for young alumni: e-mail graduates from the 1940s or ’50s and ask about their St. Lawrence experience. You are likely to get amusing stories and encouraging advice that will inspire in you a newfound sense of pride in your alma mater.

The other unique aspect of the St. Lawrence experience—interdisciplinary education—is one whose value students often overlook. The number of cross-listed courses in the University’s catalog attests to the multidisciplinary focus of the University’s curriculum; students are given the flexibility to take courses from numerous departments to form a well-rounded education that simply isn’t attainable at many other institutions. Students can choose from interdisciplinary minors such as European studies, outdoor studies and cultural encounters that require courses from several different departments. It also is common for students to work on research projects with faculty members outside their own major department. The St. Lawrence faculty is dedicated to providing students with the best education possible, and that means a sincere willingness to help in whatever ways they can.

So, instead of looking at that piece of paper hanging on your wall as just a piece of paper, use those refined analytical skills and think deeper. Think back to your experience as a member of a team, that summer you completed a research fellowship with a favorite professor, or the evenings you sat up late studying with friends. Those experiences influenced the person you are today, and they will continue to influence you as long as you let them. The value of a St. Lawrence diploma does not lie in the job you secure or the salary you make. Its value lies in the experience, the skills, and the character traits possessed by each St. Lawrence graduate that are fostered at an institution committed to life-long learning and the development of disciplined, inquiring minds.

Magna cum laude Laurentian Rachel Peterson, of King of Prussia, Pa., finds that the value of her diploma came through her double major with honors in French and philosophy, her participation in the Early Music Ensemble and her membership in Chi Omega sorority.