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October 11, 2023

NSA Teaches Business Skills

New Saint Andrews College offers only one degree: a liberal arts degree. Offering only one degree can seem like the college is limiting what graduates will be able to do in the future. So how can the college prepare students for all the possible jobs out there? The answer is that NSA’s liberal arts program teaches the foundational skills and ideas that graduates need wherever they work. Numerous NSA alumni confirm the success of the liberal arts by all the diverse jobs they hold. Two alumni that I recently talked with are David Young and Kaleb Trotter. Both discussed with me the skills that they learned from NSA and how they apply those skills to their current work in the world of business. 

David Young graduated from NSA in 2004. He works for a private credit fund focused on healthcare commercial real estate. 

In my conversation with David, I asked him about the skills he learned from NSA that he applies to his work. He said, “Specifically, it’s the ability to think.” What he means by the ability to think is knowing how to take a principle learned in one project and then applying that principle to another different project. This ability to think across projects is not something he finds very often in his work but he said it is incredibly valuable.

He said that if people cannot think in this way then a business will be hindered because there will be no way to address new problems. New problems need to be addressed with new solutions. However, it is common for a business to get stuck doing the same process over and over again. David said, “What they do, is what they did previously. So they are basically driving forward while looking in the rearview mirror.” Doing what they did in the past hinders them from finding new ways to do things today. 

Businesses need people who are able to problem solve. He explained how people learn this skill: “You learn that by acquiring copiousness. Copiousness is reading lots of books.” Reading a lot of books gives one access to a lot of data and then with that data, the person is able to see trends and patterns in the world. This offers new ways to solve new problems.   

Copiousness is an essential skill that NSA emphasizes throughout its course of study. Hugh of Saint Victor in the 12th century said it this way: “Study everything. Later, you will see that nothing is superfluous.” Students are required to read deeply in a variety of books–literature, philosophy, theology, history, and more–which enables them to have a great grasp on the world at large. Working through this diverse reading list gives students the ability to gain tools from one source and apply them to another setting. 

“We are not trying to create professionals or specialists in any one given field,” said Dr. Timothy Harmon, Provost and a fellow of Theology at NSA. “Rather we are seeking to create generalists: those who can operate well in a number of different domains.” 

Dr. Harmon connected this idea of being a generalist to the various careers a student will have after college. He discussed how it is common for people in today’s market to make moves across various job fields. This means NSA aims to give students the ability to adapt to these career changes. He said, “So there is a kind of adaptability that we want to see in the students that we graduate.” 

Kaleb Trotter graduated from NSA in 2012, and he shared with me how NSA prepared him to adapt to changes in his own career. He works for a data tech company. He began as an intern doing computer programming and now has a leadership position at the company. 

I asked him about moving from doing NSA’s coursework to doing computer programming and he said it was a fairly seamless transition. He described computer programming as using the same muscles that he used at NSA while learning languages like Latin and Greek. He explained, “The thing that you’ve learned is the ability to take an idea and translate it for someone else.” He did that in language classes and so he knew how to apply that principle in computer programming.  

When I asked Kaleb about his move into leadership, he said, “I had a much easier time transitioning from a programming background to a more management heavy role than others that I’ve worked with.” He went on to explain the way that rhetoric class at NSA helped prepare him for the ability to speak to a large group of people about the work that they do in the business. He said, “I am regularly giving discussions or talks in front of fifty or more people.” 

Kaleb also emphasized the importance of loving the people that he leads. He said the primary idea he learned in rhetoric class was “the importance of loving your audience and [love] being the primary motivator for what you are delivering.” 

Dr. Harmon summarized the vision of NSA, saying, “We want to create leaders who can thrive in any context.” That is what the liberal arts degree offers. It is one degree but it gives men and women the essential skills they need to go into a wide variety of disciplines after they graduate. This is the power that students gain by studying in NSA’s liberal arts program.