A historian who became a business professor?

Historians in the News
tags: Randall Stross, A Practical Education



Randall Stross earned his bachelor's degree from a liberal arts college and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Chinese history. His career path, however, does not fit the stereotype offered up regularly by politicians and pundits that those who focus on the liberal arts are destined for careers as baristas. He is a professor of business, teaching courses on business and society and on strategy at San Jose State University. And Stross believes a liberal arts education is the best preparation for college students -- including those who aspire to work in business and other areas seemingly far from the liberal arts.

He makes the case in A Practical Education: Why Liberal Arts Majors Make Great Employees (Stanford University Press). In the book, Stross particularly focuses on the career success of humanities majors. Via email, he answered questions about his book and the state of the liberal arts.

Q: What prompted you to write this book?

A:Once I arrived for the first day of kindergarten, I never left school. I went to Macalester College and received an outstanding education, double majoring in history and in Chinese and Japanese languages and cultures. But I knew I was headed to a Ph.D. program in modern Chinese history at Stanford and I never confronted the Great Unknown After Graduation. The book arises from my recent wish to learn about the experiences of those braver than me, who major in the liberal arts and with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree in hand, head out in the marketplace. For this project, I selected graduates who had overcome a higher degree of difficulty in landing well than would economics majors: I ended up only looking at humanities majors, who had sought professional jobs outside of teaching and that had no visible connection to the content of the major. No English majors who ended up in corporate communications, for example. I sought out those like the religious studies major profiled in the first chapter, who would end up as a professional programmer and today is the chief executive of a cloud software company. ...




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