"The Liberal Arts Changed My Life" Contest Winners

My thanks to the more than 100 alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends who submitted entries to "The Liberal Arts Changed My Life" essay contest.

Reading these essays was a delight. Selecting winners from among them was excruciatingly difficult. I also want to thank my fellow judges: Laura Edelman (psychology), Alec Marsh (English), and Don Shive (chemistry). Now it's your turn to enjoy these great affirmations of the power of the liberal arts.

Best wishes,

Randy Helm
Muhlenberg College

Grand Prize Winner: Linda Abbey, Class of 1976

"When I started my medical career, I realized Muhlenberg science courses had prepared me very well for medical school and residency. As I look back on over 30 years of practice, I appreciate more and more the rest of my liberal arts education. We in medicine are privileged to be invited into the most intimate events of peoples’ lives: the euphoria of a baby's birth, the tragedy of a child’s death. Most days are busy with happenings not so momentous but still extraordinarily humanly diverse. When I am searching for meaningful words, I am likely to recall Shakespeare, Sophocles, or maybe Camus or Cervantes: creators of characters who express in unforgettable words what it means to be humans in relationship. Through the dramatic harmonies of musical genius or the expertly blended strokes of the master artists, those of us who see life’s intensities have a common thread."

Other Winners:

Daniel Brennan, Class of 2011

"In 2007, I was graduating high school with the clear goal of attending Muhlenberg, getting my degree in Psychology and then going onto medical school for Psychiatry. Flash forward four years: now 2011, I graduated Berg with that degree, but was heading to The Juilliard School to participate in the Juilliard Professional Internship Program in the Drama Division. Three years later, I am now on staff at the Atlantic Theater Company, one of NYC’s leading theater companies. This shift in career, mindset, life goals and pure enjoyment was all due to the atmosphere that Muhlenberg and liberal arts nurtures."

Mark Cantora, Class of 2006

"I recently saw a video of an infant receiving cochlear implants. The look on his face when he first experienced his mother's voice was the closest personification of a 'miracle,' as I've ever seen. After I saw that movie, I realized that this short slice of life video is a perfect encapsulation of how the liberal arts improved my life. Muhlenberg liberal arts opened up my ability to experience the world in all its interconnected harmony from a perspective that would otherwise have been as unfathomable as the concept of sound to that young boy before his hearing aids."

Jessica Chicka, Class of 2005

"I didn’t know you could do that. That's often the line I hear when I explain my vocation in religious ecological ethics. At Muhlenberg, I majored in both Environmental Science and Religion. Never anticipating that these two would come together, I was surprised when I discovered how religious perspectives can influence individuals and groups toward environmental action. A liberal arts education afforded me opportunities to critically engage seemingly divergent areas of study in a well-rounded, multi-disciplinary way. As a current PhD student, chaplain, and teacher, I encourage others to see the possibilities in these types of critical engagement every day."

Jacqueline Indelicato, Class of 1994

"My education helped me 'Be the change I wanted to see in the world.' While studying in Florence, I was shocked by how antiquated the world’s understanding of gender was. Medical textbooks showed inaccurate depictions of the female anatomy. If the actual anatomy is incorrect, how can one understand how to cure/care for it? This disconnect was prevalent in many of my classes. How can my gender’s story accounting for every other person, be missing from the academic landscape? Helped by Professor Haas, I became the first ever Gender Studies graduate. The encouragement to question and create something not there before is still the common spark present in my professional career today. Whether pioneering a new retail format for Sony or discovering ways for global marketing agencies to drive innovation faster, liberal arts ignited my talents, helped me see the gaps and bridges and to change it 'for the better.'”

Andrew Kent, Class of 2001

"My liberal arts education provided a foundation for career success outside of my Biology and English majors. As a 2001 graduate, I pursued science journalism. With few job opportunities available, I began interning at the US Congress on September 10. The following day, the 9/11 terrorist attacks transformed American foreign policy. My BS and non-major International Relations coursework gave me skills and context to provide advice senior decision-makers. This became a full time job and led to a career in international humanitarian assistance, an MPH degree, and positions in Liberia, Sri Lanka, Haiti and the United Nations in New York."

Ronald Miller, Class of 1969

"My major in the Humanities at Muhlenberg taught me that the search for truth (especially religious truth) is about learning, and not about pronouncements by the learned. So, every time I preach, my liberal education enables me to engage in a candid discussion about truth with those who come to worship. Preaching prepared sermons suggests that a truth might be delivered by me rather than sought for and discovered by all of us who gather for worship. Without a liberal education, my ability to seek truth in worship, through preaching, would be either significantly impaired or absolutely impossible."

Dylan Moultan, Class of 2005

"I arrived at Muhlenberg in 2001 an ambitious – albeit aimless – son of high school graduates. I identified myself as inquisitive, skeptical, a wrestler and reader limited by the context afforded by four generations in the same, small town. Muhlenberg provided peers with world experiences and professors who demanded more (a better draft, a second major). The liberal arts structure demanded personal growth beyond the borders of experiences before matriculation. Fenced curiosity became English and Political Science majors that guided me toward Manhattan and a career in publishing, envisioning the business models that will support the next generation of lifelong learners."

Gaspare Pizzo, Class of 2004

"I do not to believe in fate or destiny, but my life experiences, including my four years at Muhlenberg, provide compelling evidence that such forces exist. I am the first and only born son of Italian immigrants, which meant I had the privilege of being named after my grandfather, and the expectation to become the first male in my family to graduate from college. I chose Muhlenberg because of its highly regarded pre-med program, but majored in economics after reading studies claiming econ majors perform better on the MACT. I graduated in 2004 having completed the pre-med program, a double major in economics and international studies, and other interesting courses such as War and Justice and Ancient Roman History. Five years later, following a stint on Wall Street and graduate school, I landed my dream job that allows me to use the science, economics, finance, and critical thinking education I received at Muhlenberg. I was hired as an intelligence analyst by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Intelligence and Analysis focusing on threat finance. During a briefing to a senior policymaker, I was asked the origin of my name. I replied that my family is Italian, but my first name is Persian meaning 'The Treasury Bearer' and may last name is Sicilian meaning 'protection money.' I realized at that moment the ironic coincidence between my name and career; however, it was the multidisciplinary liberal arts education from Muhlenberg that prepared me and led me to this career, as well as the intellectual curiosity to research the meaning of my name."

Angelina Savage, Class of 2004

"A dancer. That is what I have always been. So, I went to college to dance… and I did, a lot! I took classes in science, communications, language, and math; I was a leader, ran a company, and assisted the director of a department. Because of my liberal arts education, I left Muhlenberg armed with the tools to do anything. Fast forward ten years, I am the president of a PR firm and I have been dancing professionally since college. Thanks to my liberal arts education, I was able to find my passions and combine them into my dream job!"

Honorable Mention Essays