The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Two of our alumni discuss their connections to Barton College and the value they discovered in a liberal arts education.

Rep. Walter Jones (NC-3)

Rep. Walter Jones (NC-3)

Rep. Walter Jones ’68

It has been my privilege to serve in the United States Congress for the past 19 years. I had previously served in the North Carolina General Assembly for ten years. I am certain my tenure and any success I may have achieved in these institutions were directly related to my profound faith in a living and true God, my family upbringing, the community I grew up in, and my choice in pursuing a liberal arts education.

For personal reasons, I transferred from a larger school to Atlantic Christian College and the move was a positive event in my life. The opportunity to get to know my fellow students and professors on a personal basis was an experience I never would have had in a larger environment. Religion was an integral part of the curriculum and fit a need in my life at the time.

With a Liberal Arts education I received the practical skills necessary to think for myself, to effectively communicate and to participate in lifelong learning. A Liberal Arts education is broad, not specialized, from many disciplines and useful for preparation in a rapidly changing world. In Congress and in my personal life, a Liberal Arts curriculum has taught me to use independent judgment, to think critically, and to decide issues in an ethical way.

Annis Ward Jackson, author

Annis Ward Jackson, author

Annis Ward Jackson ’87

“I began my liberal arts experience while Barton College was still Atlantic Christian College. I graduated magna cum laude in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. My major was English. Two years later, I attained a Master of Arts degree at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

“From 1990-1992, I was a Special Projects Director for the North Carolina Department of Community Colleges responsible for creating an English as a Second Language curriculum to be used in all 50 colleges in the system. The curriculum, published in 1992, was titled The Warp and Weft: ESL Program Guide for North Carolina Community Colleges.

“After many years in eastern North Carolina, I now live with my husband Kramer (also an alumnus of ACC), horses, dogs, and gardens not far from where I was born in the mountains of North Carolina.

“There is no doubt that my liberal arts education positively affected my life, in ways I had hoped for and in some ways I did not expect.

“My hope when I started college as an older student was to fulfill a simple dream to become a college graduate, the first in my family to do so. That dream came true and in and of itself was a major accomplishment for me.

“While earning a degree was satisfying, benefits that I had not foreseen were even more fulfilling: a heightened awareness of the world outside family, friends and community, a connection with the past through the study of ancient literature and philosophy, and a sense of continuity to the future as I began to understand the true purpose of education for the first time.

“I had always thought that the route was, you go to college, you graduate, the learning process ends and you go to work.

“My liberal arts experience taught me that learning never has to stop. Many times over the years, I have drawn on that experience for the discipline to make better use of the creativity that I discovered in myself.

“Professors definitely played a major role in my liberal arts experience. My strong impression is that independent liberal arts colleges attract faculty who are more willing and capable of interacting with the individual student.

“Unlike most traditional students, I did not pursue a career after graduation. I enrolled at a nearby university and attained Master of Arts degree with a concentration in English literature. My master’s thesis was the first in decades to receive a Pass with Distinction. I recall clearly how convinced I was (and still am) that the foundation I had built at Barton College was in large part responsible for my success.

“I would say to any high school student that a liberal arts education is the very best basis for their future. I believe that all professions or careers are enhanced by the well-rounded education that is offered in a liberal arts program.

“I would say to parents that the choice of a college is one of the most important decisions they will ever make for their children. My advice to any parents would be to consider an independent liberal arts college because that experience will go a very long way in preparing their children to successfully cope with the inevitable personal and professional challenges that will arise in their future.”