Reflecting on the Impact of a Liberal Arts Minor

I was eighteen and beginning my collegiate journey as a business major and a theatre minor. Making this choice for my degree was a result of sage advice from my parents. I knew their parameters for funding half of my education at a state university. “Major in something that leads to gainful employment. Minor in something you love.”

Imagine if more soon-to-be college students made this decision with support from their teachers, families and advisors. Several important changes could happen. Students would have outlets to balance their pre-professional study course loads. Liberal arts and humanities departments would have steady, even growing, enrollments in their courses.

Majoring in Business Got Me Hired. Minoring in Theatre Was Transformational.

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Business is a balance of right and left brain thinking. As a digital marketing educator, I am consistently interacting with business students who want feedback on their resumes. As I scan their list of credentials, I ask, “what are you passionate about?” Usually, students are surprised by this question. They expect me to ask about their GPA, skills, certifications earned. Nope. I want to know what distinguishes them from everyone else. What fuels their souls? Acting in shows like Dial M for Murder (press photo shown) did that for me.

While having coffee with a soon-to-be graduate recently, she expressed that she did (past tense) write. She loved creative writing in high school and was proud of her work. Loved it? Why aren’t you writing now, I asked? She somehow believed in her journey to earning a baccalaureate degree that it did not apply to her career development. I told her if I had met her when she was a freshman in college, I’d encourage her to major in business and minor in creative writing. I want to hire the person who works on marketing by day and unleashes her creative ideas in her journal by night.

My first position out of college was at an advertising agency in Northeast Wisconsin. I worked on campaigns and client relations by day. After work, I continued my developing my craft by participated in community productions. In my first three years as a professional, I was in five shows. Clients came to see the performances. I worked on my lines during lunch breaks. One show required an Irish lilt, which caught the attention of one of our graphic artists who decided to work on his as well. It was as fun time of personal and professional development. My creative energy during these critical formative career years was fueled as a result.

My Favorite Collegiate Courses: Advertising and Directing

My senior year of college included two of my favorite courses: advertising and directing. One was offered by the business school. The other one was in the theatre department. I discovered a love for advertising while taking a course that involved creating a campaign for Madison Pride Recycling (this was before recycling was mainstream). I jumped on the opportunity to be the Account Executive of the group and was excited to present to the client. My team members were happy to give me the opportunity to speak for them, as they did not want to do any “public speaking.”

The directing course was an amazing experience in realizing your vision for a one-act play. I saved my directors notes from the semester. I dug out the binder recently and reflected on the experience. I had students who did not show up to rehearsals. I needed to motivate the cast to rally behind the project. Every moment mattered when I had them all together to practice. I needed to be organized, communicate clearly and inspire them. When it was show time, I had to let go and allow them to take over. Do all of these themes sound familiar in working with business teams? Working with creatives in college helped me understand and appreciate working with graphic artists and copywriters in advertising. The experience was transformational.

I could go on and on about the other experiences in theatre that transferred to business. The ability to remember lines, present in front of an audience, diction and projection. Reading facial expressions and improvising when a cast member forgets their lines in a performance. These are real skills I have used in life as a business person. I am forever grateful for making the choice pursue a minor in the liberal arts. My wish is for there to be a transformation in higher education where many more students do the same.