Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Exploration of Complimentary Factors in Career and Student Development in the Liberal Arts

Academic journal article College Student Journal

An Exploration of Complimentary Factors in Career and Student Development in the Liberal Arts

Article excerpt

This study explored factors associated with both career and student development, and with persistence decisions. Findings revealed differences in which students perceived their abilities, responsibilities, adaptability, and connections between academics and vocation among those at a liberal arts college who intended to return to the institution and those who did not. Results also indicated statistically significant correlations between and among those factors, with the education-employment connection for students having the most significant relationship with intent to return to the college. Implications of these findings, along with recommendations for future research and practice are discussed.


The purpose of the liberal arts has long been recognized as the development of the whole individual for leadership in the world, rather than producing narrowly trained specialists (Thurbur, 1934). While much of this development takes place in the classroom through academic rigor, it is the broader skills in the college milieu that also has great potential for impact. Students develop in many ways that are necessary for their success in the world outside of college, to become "spiritually and intellectually capable of pointing the way to the great society" (p. 382). With more than 1.2 million students served in more than 600 liberal arts colleges, the stakes are high in helping these students achieve success (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010).

Psychosocial theories of student development work well to describe this type of student development. One of the most significant psychosocial theories of student development --one that speaks clearly to the ethos of the liberal arts--is Chickering's (1969) developmental model. Chickering suggests that the catalyst for growth in students is the disequilibrium they experience being in a new environment. Development follows two "laws". The first law is that development in college occurs through cycles of differentiation (seeing themselves as other than) and integration (seeing themselves as similar to) (Chickering, & Reisser, 1993). The second law is that the characteristics of the individual determine the type of impact an experience will have on them (Chickering, & Reisser).

Two theoretical models guide this study. The first is Chickering's (1969) seven vectors of student development. He used the term vector "because each seems to have direction and magnitude--even though the direction may be expressed more appropriately by a spiral or by steps than by a straight line" (p. 8). Chickering's original discussion of these vectors was subsequently revised based on research on gender differences (Chickering and Reisser, 1993). They are: developing competence --intellectual, physical and interpersonal; managing emotions--issues of awareness and acknowledgement and self-regulation; moving though autonomy toward interdependence; developing mature interpersonal relationships --involves tolerance and appreciation, and capacity for intimacy; establishing identity - process of discovering with what kinds of experience, at what levels of intensity and frequency, we resonate in satisfying, in safe, or in self-destructive fashion; developing purpose --increasing in intentionality, assessment of options, clarifying goals and making plans, and persisting despite obstacles; and developing integrity--humanizing values, personalizing values and developing congruence. This model closely connects career and personal development, mirroring the reality of the connections between work and self and highlighting the psychological and social interactivity involved.

The second model that guides this study was postulated by Bean (2005). Bean identified key psychological factors and attitudes related to student development, with particular attention on persistence decisions. His model offers meaningful ways to identify and measure many of the salient elements of Chickering and Reisser's (1993) model. …

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