Arts

The dean shares insight on changes for life after graduation

Photo courtesy of Caroline Baron-Courcy

It’s been 125 years since the Faculty of Arts came to fruition. It’s a landmark birthday for the University of Ottawa’s oldest faculty, and the dean would like to freeze that moment in time.

How about a photo?

To celebrate the faculty’s success over the last century and a quarter, dean Antoni Lewkowicz organized a group photo at Tabaret Hall of as many students and faculty members as possible for a historic memento.

The photo is part of a larger ongoing initiative to immortalize the faculty’s 125th year. In January, Lewkowicz will coordinate the assembly of a time capsule, in which students can either write what they believe the faculty will offer to students in the future, or their favourite memories from here in 2014.

Lewkowicz says he’s happy with the successes of his faculty, which has the second-highest enrolment of all disciplines at the U of O.

For arts students who are nervous about where their degree will take them after graduation, Lewkowicz says it’s important to stick to your interests no matter what. “I really do believe that one should study one’s passion. If you’re passionate about what you do, you will get that well-paying job at the end. You will be able to sell what you’ve learned,” he says.

“So what is it you’ve learned as an arts graduate? You’ve learned to think critically, you’ve learned to communicate well, both orally and in writing,” Lewkowicz adds. Not only that, he suggests using those skills to stand out from the pack. “The more you can do to separate yourself from your colleagues with something different is key.”

Lewkowicz said he recently met two arts alumni with unique backgrounds that included travelling, learning a third language, and running an online streaming company.

He also said he’s seen most U of O arts graduates employed in the field in which they studied. Not all English graduates will go on to become teachers, but they may find jobs in technical writing or communications.

Lewkowicz pointed to a recent article in the Globe and Mail that features a study on the financial rewards of a university degree. The study showed that over a 12-year period, the middle income earners would earn an average salary of $39,000 their first year after graduating from the U of O, including those who’ve completed a bachelor of arts.“We know our students find work and this study demonstrates that work ,pays off not just in the long run but in the short run as well. So that’s why it’s so positive.”

Lewkowicz is happy to see arts degrees gain a fresh reputation as being a great investment despite their notoriety, for the contrary. “It’s not an enormous income, but it’s a good solid (one),” says Lewkowicz. Those salaries continue to grow and eventually surpass the average Canadian income.

He says with this study, students can see that the idea that most humanities students end up at Starbucks serving coffee and making minimum wage is a myth. Hopefully soon, he says, the arts degree will be able to break the server stereotype.

Over the last six years as dean, Lewkowicz has seen major changes, physically, statistically, and anecdotally, to the U of O’s arts community. He says there’s now more effort put into the student experience, and strategic planning has focused strongly on the extra support students need.

Additionally, recent relocations of buildings—such as moving one-third of the arts faculty to Desmarais—means arts students are almost always in the northwestern part of campus. Lewkowicz says that means greater cohesion for students.

“It’s a very positive message for us, and to give to both students who’ve decided to do their BA and their parents when the question comes up with ‘What are you going to do with an arts degree?’ The answer is, ‘I’ll get a good job.’”