Encouraging Journalistic Pursuits: In Defense of Liberal Arts


Courtesy of Nikoleta Papavasilakis for The Fordham Ram.

In an article I wrote as a staff writer early in my tenure with  the Ram, titled “Encouraging Journalistic Pursuits,” I argued vehemently against the notion that journalism is a dying industry, explaining that as long as people need access to trustworthy, swift news coverage, journalism will never die. The only catch? I was a business administration major at the time. 

Since then, I’ve been promoted to Opinion Editor, transferred out of the Gabelli School of Business, declared my major in journalism and a minor in English and held multiple news internships. I have never looked back. Nothing prompts doubt in me less than my choice to pursue journalism and an academic career in the liberal arts.

Clearly, though, it took some time for me to get here. As a student, I always loved English. It was my favorite subject throughout elementary, middle and high school. I practically lived in the local Barnes & Noble near my house. Any $20 bill I was gifted for a birthday automatically equated to two paperbacks in my mind. When the Bargain Books store in my hometown closed, I entered a serious mourning period. In all honesty, I’m still not over it. So why did I enter Fordham as a business student? 

I fell into that warm, inviting trap that tells prospective students that English majors can’t get jobs and are eternally broke. That liberal arts is a waste of time and money. I’m sure some people agree with these ideas. In fact, I know plenty of people who do. I had a teacher in high school with one article tacked to his bulletin board that argued college is only worth it if you’re a STEM major. I’ve read countless articles explaining how much each major makes on average post-graduation, which degrees are worth the cost of college and the fact that humanities students make less on average than STEM students. 

I am not arguing against these facts; yes, liberal arts students make less on average post-graduation compared to STEM or business students. But the future isn’t so bleak for liberal arts majors, certainly not for those who put the work in. 

In fact, I believe the push to pursue careers in STEM has gone too far. There have been mass efforts to encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM, specifically targeting women in STEM. These efforts are admirable, since the STEM gender gap is undeniable — women account for a mere 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields. However, this move to inspire underrepresented groups to pursue academic careers in STEM seems to have swung too far to the other side, in which we only encourage students to pursue careers in STEM. It seems we have lost the point of these movements, which is to validate students in whatever career path they decide to pursue based on their own unique interests.

I circled “business” on my college application because I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to survive with a liberal arts degree. I’m a practical person; I listened to all of the anti-liberal arts information I had been told. In retrospect, this was a ridiculous idea. 

While sitting in the Fordham Prep auditorium during one set of business presentations my freshman year, I realized that some of the students up on stage in their power suits loved what they were doing. And I did not. While I could have floated through a business education, enjoying some classes here and there, I never would have been performing to the best of my abilities. I truly believe that if people pursue what they love to do in life, they will find their most significant successes because they will always be pushed to perform their best. 

Since that article I wrote freshman year, I have been able to access the resources and opportunities available to liberal arts students that are constantly left out of the dialogue surrounding success post-graduation. The Fordham English Department, for example, is a wonderful resource in and of itself. The department is focused on helping English students locate opportunities for internships and jobs, with a website dedicated to internship and job applications. 

The English department also hosts networking events for current and former English students to come together and discuss their latest endeavors in publishing, writing and anything else they are currently working on. Most recently, alumni and students gathered in Manhattan for a family meal, with entry including a free copy of a book by Fordham English professor Stacey D’Erasmo. 

I’ve found reprieve this semester at the Ampersand, the literary magazine on campus, a club I have been involved with since my freshman year. Every week, students gather together in the basement of the church (did you know there is an incredibly cozy room there with leather couches?) to write creatively, respond to prompts and participate in the book club. It is my literary safe haven, and these meetings keep me from spiraling during busy weeks. 

The Fordham Ram, of course, is a wonderful place for my journalist self. It is an unbelievable opportunity for prospective journalists. I am able to write my own articles, edit the work of others every week and gather alongside peers for long production nights where we format a quite professional-looking newspaper, in my opinion. A fresh copy of the Ram on my desk never loses its appeal. 

As a liberal arts student, I have been afforded opportunities I never would have been able to enjoy otherwise. I started out as an intern for my town’s local magazine and a Long Island newspaper, writing articles every day and covering virtual press conferences during the early months of the pandemic. (I remember thinking I was so cool for covering “real” press conferences.) 

Since then, I’ve heard my own voice on the radio as a reporter for WFUV Public Radio, pitching my own stories, finding interviewees, writing copy and recording and editing audio within mere hours. I interned at a journalistic non-profit in London during my semester abroad, where I edited the work of renowned international journalists and researched advancements in journalism for e-learning course tutorials. 

Now, I find my weeks full to the brim of thought-provoking discussions in class, interesting lectures, fulfilling editorial work at the Ram, creative freedom at the Ampersand and an exciting and rewarding internship in the booking department for the TODAY Show and NBC News. 

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been this busy before, but I do know I’ve never been happier. I’ve found my favorite people at Fordham, some of them at the Ram, and I get to do the most fulfilling work alongside them. Although I’m eager to enter the workforce, knowing that I love my path as a journalist, I do worry that you’ll have to drag me off campus once May rolls around. 

I am confident in my choice to pursue a degree in liberal arts, and I want prospective students to feel just as emboldened in whatever path they choose. As a senior now looking back on my time at Fordham, I am very grateful that I hated those freshman year business classes.