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CMDA Convocation Speaker Tepper Interviewed by the Advocate about value of arts education

2012 08 27 Convocation 0365 L

CMDA Convocation Speaker Tepper Interviewed by the Advocate about value of arts education

Please click the following link to read the full Advocate story.

This story was originally published as an opinion editorial in the Advocate on September 18, 2012.

As the aftermath of a global recession continues to complicate the American job market, recent college graduates might naturally wonder how their new degrees have equipped them to succeed in the workplace.

The good news, said Steve Tepper, is that students with degrees in the arts have generally fared well in recent years.

Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, was in Baton Rouge recently to speak at the LSU College of Music and Dramatic Arts. A nationally known scholar of art and culture in modern American life, Tepper noted that a recent national survey of arts graduates found them generally succeeding in their professional lives.

The survey, which included 36,000 arts alumni of 66 institutions in the United States and Canada, found that only 4 percent of the respondents reported being unemployed and looking for work, less than half the national rate of 8.9 percent at the time of the survey in 2011. Only 3 percent of the employed respondents reported being “very dissatisfied” with their primary jobs.

In a meeting with Advocate reporters and editors during his Baton Rouge visit, Tepper said that many arts graduates continue to use their arts training, even when they pursue careers in fields that aren’t directly connected to the arts. They often continue to perform or make art, “whether they are professional artists, lawyers or engineers,” Tepper said. “Many of them go into teaching.”

Tepper said that the primary lessons of arts curriculums — creativity, collaboration, hard work, empathy — are great skills in any workplace. He mentioned another survey of top CEOs in which they listed creativity as the most important skill for potential employees. “The MFA ( master of fine arts degree) could be the new MBA,” Tepper said, echoing an observation made by others.

Tepper’s observations are important to keep in mind as many institutions of higher learning in Louisiana and across the country confront dwindling budgets, forcing difficult choices about how campus resources should be allocated. At such times, arts education is often among the first candidates for the chopping block.

But Tepper’s remarks remind us that arts programs are a vital part of America’s business and civic life. Arts education is worth preserving, even — and perhaps especially — when the economy takes a downturn.