A degree in the arts has never been more valuable than right now
Sarah Dobson had always been interested in politics and political science. She was that junior-high student who was always running for student government and had a real interest in learning more about how Canadian institutions and international communities worked.
She began her arts degree at Dalhousie University taking an array of general classes in political science, english, statistics, economics and history. She knew after her first year that her major was meant to be political science, and enjoyed the flexibility of an arts degree that allowed her to explore other interests such as russian history, calculus, economics and law.
“I think there is a belief that arts degrees are less challenging than other degrees, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Sarah explains. “Arts and social sciences deconstructed and reconstructed the way my brain works and processes information.”
In many ways, Sarah found the sciences, like calculus and statistics, less challenging.
“While I spent hours learning math, I knew at the end of the day there was something I could learn and understand,” Sarah says. “With arts, the real learning is a way of thinking. I learned to develop an argument, to critically analyze and to write effectively. It’s not about memorizing tables and facts, but about rewiring students’ brains to be able to analyze opinions and materials.”
Sarah says that if a potential arts student is someone who wants to make the most of their degree, they must rise up to that challenge, because this way of thinking has immeasurable benefits for future pursuits.
After deliberating between a master degree and law school, Sarah chose law. Professors and staff supported her beyond what she expected, and worked hard to
ensure that she had the strongest application. Sarah was even awarded a Board of Governors award, the university’s highest award for student contribution to leadership in the extracurricular realm, and received a full scholarship to the Schulich School of Law.
“As long as you show up ready to work and engage, you will be supported. When you break down the school into faculties and departments, you get that feeling of community that you might have at a small school,” she says.
Sarah is about to graduate and will begin articling at a firm in Halifax. She says this is likely the most challenging role she has ever taken on, and credits a great deal of her success in law to the way the arts taught her to think, read and write.
“The on-the-ground experiences I had in the arts taught me to interact and network in a professional setting. Getting a job after law school is competitive, and I pulled on these skills to secure an articling position,” Sarah says.
She encourages any student called towards the arts to pursue it, as studying the arts has never been more important than today. “We are at a critical time in society, and it is vital that we have people studying our institutions, literature, sociology, anthropology, history, the rule of law…all of it.”
Sarah’s piece of advice is to not let others tell you that an arts degree is less valuable than one in science and technology. In the end, it resulted in Sarah pursuing a career she was passionate about, while also enjoying experiences such as working on Parliament Hill, studying abroad in Brussels, and working on a book about women in politics.
“There are opportunities around every corner for you in the arts, but you have to show up. You will get as much out of it as you put into it.”