Submission Date

7-20-2017

Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access

Department

Media & Communication Studies

Faculty Mentor

Sheryl Goodman

Project Description

The value of liberal education has been widely discussed by its advocates and critics. This research examined the contemporary debate to learn about public attitudes towards higher education and perceptions of the humanities and liberal arts as college majors. In addition, research on the connection between college major and future outcomes such as career trajectory, success, and happiness was reviewed. Roksa and Levey (2010) found that liberal arts majors had the lowest salaries at the entry level, but had the most income and job growth throughout their careers. Finally, research on the portrayal of college life was examined to learn about the kinds of attitudes cultivated by the media, as there was no research found on portrayals of majors. To understand how various majors are represented in the media and to see if it is in line with what research has found about actual perceptions of majors, a content analysis was conducted. Twenty-five movies from the 21st century that either occurred in a college setting or included college characters as the primary focus were studied. After coding each reference to a major and each character whose major was known, it was found that in total there were fifty-one references and twenty-one characters with known majors. The results showed that almost all references to majors were neutral or negative. The results also suggested that characters with majors in the humanities were portrayed more negatively than those with other majors when n>1. The implication of these findings are considered.

Comments

Presented during the 19th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 21, 2017 at Ursinus College.

Presented also at the 2017 Pennsylvania Communication Association’s Annual Convention.

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