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Do Students have to Choose Between Liberal Arts and STEM?

 In a world dominated by specialties, many parents wonder if there is still value in a liberal arts education. At Agnes Scott College, an independent women’s college in Decatur, Georgia, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Agnes Scott’s liberal arts education provides the soft skills many employers are seeking—nurturing creativity, critical thinking, teamwork and communication. These skills are key to successfully navigating around diverse personalities and perspectives in the workplace after college.

Agnes Scott also provides a unique mentoring program, SUMMIT, to prepare students to lead and succeed after graduation. SUMMIT focuses on developing students into global leaders starting with their first week on campus. By the second semester, every first-year student goes on a week-long global journey. This year’s journey locations include Cuba, Croatia, Ecuador, Ghana, Morocco, and Puerto Rico.

“SUMMIT reimagines a liberal arts education for the 21st century by preparing every student to be an effective change agent in a global society, and to succeed in their chosen professional path” says Dr. Elaine Meyer-Lee, director of SUMMIT and associate vice president for global learning and leadership development at Agnes Scott College.

As part of SUMMIT, all students develop digital literacy throughout the curriculum and then curate a digital portfolio demonstrating their learning. SUMMIT recently helped Agnes Scott College earn a second No. 1 ranking in the country among national liberal arts colleges on the Most Innovative Schools list in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 edition of Best Colleges. Agnes Scott also received a No. 1 ranking from U.S. News for “Best First-Year Experience.”

Blending Liberal Arts and STEM

Agnes Scott also offers a robust emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), including a new minor called “Foundations of Artificial Intelligence.”  Agnes Scott’s neuroscience program is consistently one of the college’s top five most popular majors.

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Dr. Jennifer Larimore, co-director of the neuroscience program, knows firsthand the benefits that come from studying STEM in a liberal arts environment. “My own undergraduate experience included a STEM major at a liberal arts institution, and at the time I didn’t realize how valuable that combination was,” she says. “Now as an educator, I see that a liberal arts education really affords students a broader base for problem-solving skills. The more diverse the set of tools we can give our students, the more innovative they will be. The leadership lessons and global exposure our students receive through SUMMIT might eventually be the catalyst for them to lead a medical team or a treatment group or to apply problem-solving skills to health and environmental issues world-wide.”

Real-World Experiences are Key

While Agnes Scott is known for its appealing professor-student ratio (1:10) and the other benefits that come with a smaller college, it also offers larger-school opportunities in key areas like internships and research.

“Sometimes students have a misconception that they might not be able to work with famous ‘Professor X’ or gain other important internship experiences at a smaller liberal arts school,” Larimore says. But Agnes Scott faculty have forged innovative partnerships with other universities that create additional opportunities for their students.

For example, Larimore linked a student who was passionate about working on addiction to an opportunity at a state school. “Our student was able to couple that research experience with her education here at Agnes Scott,” Larimore says. “This is an environment where we really get to know our students and successfully place them in opportunities that provide the tailor-made experiences they need to have successful careers.”

At the Top of Their Game

While academics might be the key factor in school choice, a well-rounded education should include other pursuits—and Agnes Scott College delivers.

The college hosts six NCAA Division III teams—in basketball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball—offering an outlet for athletes who don’t want to leave their playing days behind. And in conjunction with the college’s overall philosophy, the athletics staff is dedicated to helping student-athletes grow their leadership skills both on and off the field.

Room to Grow

The Agnes Scott experience doesn’t have to stop at graduation. To stay current in today’s fast-paced world, the college offers interdisciplinary graduate programs designed for “forward thinkers” who want to be leaders in their fields. They share the hallmarks of the college’s undergrad experience, further equipping students to succeed in fields that require innovation, leadership and global awareness, all within a cohesive, collaborative community.

For more information on Agnes Scott, click here:

From humanities and STEM, to SUMMIT and beyond, Agnes Scott College offers a unique blend of hard and soft skills to develop students who are equipped to succeed.

Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, and mom of three teen boys. Read more about Cathie at

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