As a child, Serena Green, who is slated to graduate in August, constantly asked for explanations from her parents and teachers about things in the world around her.
“I’ve always been driven by the question ‘why?’” Green said. “As I went through school, the question changed to ‘how?’”
Seeking answers drew her toward biology as a major.
“I wanted all of that curiosity that came to me naturally to be answered,” said Green, who loves to read in a variety of genres.
Green came to realize there were some answers biology couldn’t provide. She turned to creative writing, something she had practiced for years by writing poems about her thoughts and emotions.
“Science can be cut and dried. It’s based on facts, not emotion,” she said. “In writing, I can put all of the emotions that I can’t put into science into my poetry.”
Like many Carlow students, Green recognized the value of a liberal arts education to help her explore different educational pathways that will prepare her to achieve academic and professional goals. Students like Green benefit from the Carlow Compass, a unique educational curriculum rooted in the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Compass, which was instituted in the fall of 2015, serves as a navigational tool that integrates a student’s major course of study with courses that introduce, develop and reinforce specific learning outcomes.
“From her first semester here at Carlow, Serena recognized the importance of developing her own voice and the power inherent in cultivating her own depth of imagination, something she recognized as essential to any successful career path,” said Louis Boyle, PhD, professor of English. “She is a talented poet and writer, but perhaps more important than her innate talent is her willingness to make time for reading and writing and to actively engage in further developing her academic prowess on all fronts.
“Serena is the model of the wise student who takes full advantage of all Carlow has to offer in the fields of writing and humanities. We will miss her terribly, but we know that she graduates as a more complete scientist, writer and human being – in short, as a testament to the profound influence of the Mercy mission and the Carlow liberal arts tradition.”
A love of creative writing drives Cameron Short, too. The Carlow rising junior is a behavioral neuroscience major who plans to enter the accelerated Master of Arts in psychology program with a concentration in assessment psychology, and eventually do hospital-based research into neuropsychology as a means to help people with cognitive disorders. He sees real value in his creative writing minor.
“I’m a very analytical person. Figuring out people and how the brain works fascinates me. The brain, along with the depth of the ocean and space, are the next frontiers,” said Short, who credits the variety in Carlow’s curriculum with helping him apply what he already knows and try new things. “I like to use the mechanics that I already know about and put them together in creative ways. I get to do that with poetry. Every single word and every single line in a poem creates meaning. I’m drawn to that.”
Recognizing the value of a liberal arts education also works the other way. Ashley Anderson, who just completed her first year majoring in English, has always loved math.
“I was always in higher math classes going through middle and high school,” says Anderson, who considered a career as an accountant or even for NASA before falling in love with English as a major. “I still really enjoy problem-solving, and I feel taking pre-calc is helping me to do better in my other classes.”
Anderson believes the Carlow Compass made her think about taking courses she wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
“For me, it makes it easier to try new things and not be intimidated by taking a class that I may be semi-interested in, but still feel iffy about,” she said. Sometimes taking a class outside of one’s major opens up new ways of applying that major in the real world. Recent grad Angela Carney ’19 was first drawn to chemistry in high school, but looked forward to learning more than just chemistry at Carlow.
“In 10th grade, my chemistry teacher didn’t just teach the formulas, but he taught how it relates to our lives,” she recalled. “By the time I took Chemistry II, I knew I wanted to major in chemistry in college.
“I read for fun,” she said. “The distribution of studies allowed me to expand my mind beyond my major.”
Carney took a class about women in film, and her Mass Media and Society class helped her to understand how people got their news before the advent of television and the internet.
Carney plans to apply to a graduate program in epidemiology so she can use her chemistry major and math minor to understand how diseases spread in populations. Ultimately, she says her goal is to apply what she has learned at Carlow in a public health setting and to help people.
Ericka Mochan, PhD, assistant professor of mathematics, said the liberal arts education improved Carney’s communication skills, which helped her self-confidence and led her to seek leadership positions on campus.
“Angela is a prime example of how Carlow’s unique environment and curriculum can truly prepare a student for a successful post-graduate career,” said Mochan. “Angela’s liberal arts education fostered strong critical thinking skills, which allowed her to apply the concepts she had learned in her chemistry courses to the problems we worked on in math classes. Angela grew so much in her time at Carlow; she went from not having enough confidence in her abilities in her STEM courses, to declaring a math minor, to eventually leaning towards a master’s program in an interdisciplinary STEM field.”