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Phoenix Forward magazine

What studying the humanities and sciences has meant to 4 alums

When these four University of Phoenix graduates decided to pursue their passions for the humanities and sciences — history, the arts, philosophy, languages and environmental science — they knew they’d gain valuable skills, such as critical thinking and written and verbal communication.

But they also found inspiration in ways they never anticipated. Here, they share moments from their coursework in the College of Humanities and Sciences that helped reshape their lives:

"Life-affirming" discovery

“Life-affirming” discovery

The interdisciplinary courses initially attracted Jeannie Bladlund-Ferrara, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree from the communication program with a concentration in marketing and sales communication. But it was a class in which she explored the “values of Western humanistic tradition” that she found the most rewarding.

“My [Philosophy] 105 course created a life-affirming moment for me,” Bladlund-Ferrara explains. “In this class, I was able to examine a personal philosophy of “humble generosity” [giving even when you don’t have much to give] and determine the direction that my public relations firm would take.”

What she learned in her courses gave Bladlund-Ferrara the foundation she needed to launch Thy Word Public Relations, which promotes grass-roots, nonprofit organizations that provide financial assistance and offer support groups and workshops to Christian single mothers.

Recognition of different viewpoints

Recognition of different viewpoints

An avid reader, Jennie Scherf found that classes in her English program helped expand her love of the written word. But she also learned to appreciate different points of view — specifically those of minority writers. “My multicultural literature class exposed me to authors I had never heard of before,” she says.

Studying about the social, racial and economic struggles of those unfamiliar literary voices, she adds, made her question what she was taught in public school. “Reading books written by minorities helped me piece together a truer history than the one I grew up with,” notes Scherf, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2012.

Stronger job skills

Stronger job skills

At first, Miguel Figueroa wanted to further his education so he could be promoted in the Connecticut Army National Guard. “A bachelor’s degree,” he explains, “is one of the requirements for making lieutenant.”

He soon discovered, however, that earning his bachelor’s in the environmental science program enhanced his skills as an environmental officer — his job entails preventing the spread of communicable diseases through public health education.

“The thing I liked most about my courses was learning how the economy and environment are interconnected,” he says. For instance, he was intrigued to discover that while Dubai is booming economically, the oil-rich Middle Eastern city lacks the infrastructure to handle its growing trash problem.

Figueroa’s enthusiasm for health education and disease prevention led him to pursue a master’s in public health in environmental health sciences at New York Medical College.

Deeper appreciation for other cultures

Deeper appreciation for other cultures

David Rueda, already an inveterate traveler, found that studying for his associate degree in the communication program strengthened his appreciation for people of different cultures and their customs. “The part I enjoy the most [about traveling] is immersing myself in the local culture, going off the beaten path and truly spending time with the locals,” says Rueda, who’s been to countries on five continents and completed his degree in 2010.

He’s even a globe-trotter at work. “As director of sales and marketing for House Of Sillage [an international perfumery],” he says, “I’m responsible for the development of our firm in 27 countries. I’ve learned so much from so many people, but my education laid a foundation for me to build upon.”

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