Liberal education : a qualitative case study on HBCU Black liberal arts students in a tech design course.
The employability of liberal arts versus specialized degree-holders is a significant concern in a technology-driven labor market. As a result of the specialized market, there has been an immediate demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or STEM-related degree-holders. However, the demand for STEM-related skills also stressed the immediate and marketable salary gains available for graduates with these degrees. Therefore, a liberal arts education’s significance has left public opinion to contemplate its value and existence. In return, the ongoing debate about the value of a liberal arts degree after college persists. Employment outcomes have been difficult to explain for liberal arts disciplines post-graduation compared to specialized degrees. Liberal arts degree holders experience many different career outcomes immediately after graduation. These outcomes vary while the labor market attempts to understand the value of broad skills in a specialized market. As a result, employers are often looking to recruit specific skills. However, liberal arts skills are equally marketable in various industries, including a specialized market. This qualitative instrumental case study used the eight National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Career Readiness Competencies as the theoretical framework to identify the qualities and skills liberal arts students at an HBCU contributed to a specialized course. In addition, the theoretical framework helped to distinguish the skills liberal arts students contributed to a technical user experience and user interface (UX/UI) design course. The study utilized concurrent triangulation to explore the qualities and skills of students from a liberal arts education. The study conducted four data collection methods. The findings uncovered three themes linked to the NACE Career Readiness Competencies that supported the qualities and skills of liberal arts students in a UX/UI design course. These themes consisted of oral and written communication, teamwork and collaboration, and global and intercultural fluency. Congruently, these skills align with the needs of employers in the workforce. In addition, the results provide a better understanding of a multidisciplinary curriculum for liberal arts education that links with future workforce trends. Ultimately, this approach provides experiences for students to identify, demonstrate, and articulate their use in a competitive knowledge economy.