Humanities Grads Work in Diverse Fields

Nathaniel Stornetta will receive his bachelor’s degree from BYU this week and relocate to San Francisco to work for a firm in the niche area of economics consulting — providing statistical modeling and analysis specifically for litigation.

While you might think this is another business whiz kid from the Marriott School, for Stornetta, it’s his humanities training that has given him the edge.

"The first thing the firm wanted in candidates, and what they first saw in me, was a background in math and statistics,” Stornetta said. “But being savvy in economics wasn't enough. They also needed someone with the ability to read analytically and write clearly.”

Stornetta will graduate with a dual major in economics and Spanish. He said he gained his unique skillset as he worked through his Spanish literature course load. He loved the experience of immersing himself fully into the works of an author, such as his favorite, Gabriel García Márquez.

This is one of many success stories the College of Humanities is seeing with its focus on the innate value of the humanities, and the ability to transition the training students receive into a variety of fields.

“We are looking for students who are bilingual — not just in the obvious linguistic sense, though certainly that, too — but also in the sense of being fluent in the language of the humanities and speaking the languages of economics, or technology, or business," said dean of BYU’s College of Humanities John Rosenberg.

The college just recently put online an interactive data visualization to map exactly where the graduates are going. The data is self-reported from graduates of BYU’s program and dates back to 2001.

Still the public perception is an overall disconnect between studying humanities and getting a job in a viable field after graduation. The purpose of the visualization is to provide some concrete data about the actual career fields humanities students are in.

Something else that was discovered through data analysis from the College of Humanities is that graduates are finding jobs that are recession-proof. Even through economic downturns and hardships, graduates are finding employment and staying employed.

“We have learned that for most jobs employers are less interested in a student’s major than in who a student has become: ideally, a curious and urgent learner, someone whose interests cross boundaries, who generates fresh ideas and who uses carefully wrought language to share them,” Rosenberg said. “Those dispositions are always in demand because they drive social and economic change rather than respond to them."

Rosenberg has seen first-hand the economic value of a humanities degree. He cites a study, published in the Cambridge Journal of Economics in 2012, that found that Americans in the creative class had a lower chance of being unemployed from 2006 to 2011 than those employed in the service sector or working class jobs.

Humanities majors everywhere are asked the question, “what are you going to do with that degree,” followed by the predictable “teach?” With some concrete data to display and more and more experiences like Stornetta’s, the College of Humanities’ hope is that BYU humanities students can be empowered to do with their degree anything they want.

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—Jon McBride, BYU University Communications