MADISON—Three undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin System will be honored through the third annual UW System Liberal Arts Scholarship Competition, established to support and promote liberal education throughout the state’s public university system.

For the essay competition, students were invited to imagine themselves as a graduating senior giving advice to a younger sibling on how best to navigate college to reap the benefits of a liberal education.  Three students were selected for outstanding essays on the value of a liberal arts education in the 21st century.  This year’s recipients are:

  • Cheryl K. Davis, UW-Oshkosh, for “The Choices of Success”
  • Katie Jo Pockat, UW-Marinette, for “To My Dear Little Brother:  Everything You Must Know About Your Liberal Education”
  • Vidhya Raju, UW-Madison, for “An Engineer’s Advice:  a Discussion about College and the Value of a Liberal Arts Education”

Each winner will receive a $2,000 scholarship to help support their undergraduate education.  In addition to the three scholarship recipients, three essay writers earned honorable mentions:  Madeleine Dungy, UW-Madison; Maria Lind, UW-Eau Claire; and Rose Steiner, UW-Washington County.

“The scholarship competition highlights the outstanding students we are privileged to educate at each of our campuses,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly.  “It also highlights the extent to which a liberal arts and science education provides students with the critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st Century. As their essays demonstrate, this year’s scholarship recipients are truly exemplary.”

Sponsored by the UW System Advisory Group on the Liberal Arts, the competition is funded with private funds. It is one aspect of the UW System’s partnership in the national Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) campaign, sponsored by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).

The LEAP campaign seeks to spark public debate about the kinds of knowledge, skills, habits of mind, and values that students need in their future roles as citizens. The effort focuses on essential learning outcomes for all students, whatever their field of study.

In a national survey commissioned by AAC&U, employers and business leaders stressed the importance of providing today’s college students with versatile knowledge and skills, with more emphasis on helping students put their knowledge and skills to practical use in “real-world” settings.

In the survey, 56 percent of employers thought universities should focus on providing all students with a well-rounded education—broad knowledge and skills that apply to a variety of fields. In that same survey, 63 percent of employers believed that recent college graduates do not have the skills they need to succeed in today’s global economy.

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More information:

Third-Annual Liberal Arts Scholarship Competition

Excerpts from Winning Essays, May 2008

“The Choices of Success”

By Cheryl K. Davis, UW-Oshkosh

“…At 49 years of age, I was strongly opinionated about most everything. It was challenging for me to discard some of my opinions, but it was a joy to replace them with more balanced and informed viewpoints. It was also exciting to discover that many of my beliefs were solid and could inform what I was learning. As I’ve studied the rise and fall of civilizations, the evolution of thought and philosophy, the history of political systems, the multi-faceted characters in literature, and the intricacies of math and science, I’ve developed a wider perspective that requires humility from me and promotes understanding of those different from myself. I am an important person, but so is every other person. We revolve around each other…”

“To My Dear Little Brother:  Everything You Must Know About Your Liberal Education”

By Katie Jo Pockat, UW-Marinette

“…The beauty of a liberal education is that everything finds ways to connect. The more you learn, the more you find ways to make these connections yourself.  The more ways you find connections, the further adept you become when you grow as a scholar. By the time you complete your liberal education; you will have changed and grown from the inside….Be prepared to teach yourself, and not wait for your professor to hand you all the information you will need to be successful. Part of what makes a liberal education so valuable is that you become responsible for your own success. Be patient with yourself and with your progress, because, while you may not initially understand the importance of a particular subject and its connections with your education and your future, the lessons you learn and the knowledge you attain can never be taken away from you. In your lifetime, you will find yourself reaching back to these lessons and applying them to your surroundings. This will connect you with the world on a higher level and you will be grateful for the path you chose in your college education which made you a well-rounded person. Keep these thoughts with you as you embark on a higher path of learning and development…”

“An Engineer’s Advice:  a Discussion about College and the Value of a Liberal Arts Education”

By Vidhya Raju, UW-Madison

“…Most engineering degrees require at least sixteen credits of liberal arts courses, and mine is no exception. These are the courses that I have to take with the diffuse ‘rest of the university:’  people who boldly major in art, history, political science, Latin, and so on. One of the first questions I ask when I meet someone who majors in the liberal arts is, ‘What are you going to do after you graduate?’

The infamous shrug is a surprisingly uncommon answer. Most often, I have been surprised by the ingenuity of the answers I receive:  therapy through art, facilitation of international business, changing environmental policy. Clearly, most people here do not lack a sense of direction. They are the people who spend afternoons chalking up the sidewalks down the streets of the college campus, advertising political perspectives and canvassing for the environment. While I pore over problems for my engineering classes, they discuss the state of the world in semi-dark coffee houses. Their majors expose them to current issues and allow them to get into heated debates about public policy. Somehow, their classes seem more relevant, more urgent to the social and political climate…”

Media Contact

David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464