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ACADEMICS Q&A WITH PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS JO BETH MERTENS

Will you explain the eight goals?

The eight goals are designed to guide HWS students through an interdisciplinary academic experience. We want HWS students to graduate with clarity and confidence in who they are, and to be competent in the important skills of: critical thinking; communication, including writing, reading, speaking and listening; reasoning quantitatively; understanding the scientific method; understanding and experiencing a fine or performing art; understanding the multiplicity of world cultures; and understanding difference and inequality. We want our students to leave campus with a knowledge-based foundation for ethical judgment.

How does a student achieve the eight goals?

Students need to address each of the goals before graduation. HWS requires every student to have both a major and a minor, one of which has to be interdisciplinary. Together, the classes required for the major and minor will address the broad goals of effective communication and critical thinking, and possibly a few others. The remaining goals are achieved by students working closely with their advisers to select appropriate courses. Students get to choose their advisers, which helps this process because it leads to the formation of lasting relationships and trust.

What do you think makes Hobart and William Smith different? Why should a student come to HWS?

HWS has an interesting combination of allowing students to be individuals and pursue their individual interests within a very rigorous academic environment. The eight goals contribute to that, and the fact that we offer the individual major. Students have the ability to come to HWS and pursue and dig into something that they are really interested in. We're flexible enough and small enough to accommodate those kinds of things, yet we hold everybody accountable to a rigorous academic standard, which we do not compromise.

Also, the goal system allows us to add new courses that can come and go as needed, so we can respond quickly to changes in society and the environment. HWS doesn't have competing resources like a big university would, so the curriculum is much more flexible.

What kind of a student is attracted to a Hobart and William Smith education?

Ideally, we'd like to have students who are engaged in academics, students who are interested in learning, who get excited when they work a problem correctly. It is great to have students who are invested in and excited about their education.

What do you say to prospective students when they say they want to major in business?

Basically the business world is looking for people who can write well, who have quantitative skills, and who know how to think. That's a liberal arts education in a nutshell. There are many HWS alums working in the financial industry, and none of them majored in business (because we don't offer business as a major). There are top people working on Wall Street that were history, political science or other majors. You can still learn about the business world by taking various courses here, and there are many experiences to learn from. We also have a Pre-Business Advisory that helps students to plan courses that will prepare them with the skills they need to be successful.

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