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IT Takes All Types: The Liberal Art of IT

IT Communications Intern, Lauren Bayse

Lauren Bayse is the Student Communications Intern for the IT department. She is a senior at the College majoring in Government with a minor in Hispanic Studies. 

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household where everything from Shakespeare, to the makeup of a cell, to Buddhism, to the history of Thailand was given equal weight in terms of educational value. I was encouraged to learn for the sake of learning and not for the sake of seeking the most lucrative profession. While it was a blessing to grow up in a home where I knew I could become whatever I wanted to be, and study whatever I wished to study, as I stand on the brink of college graduation, sometimes my liberal arts degree doesn’t seem to provide a comforting blanket of security when job searching.

I, like many college-goers, have a rather open-ended major: Government with a minor in Hispanic Studies. Upon telling this to people, I am almost always met with that look—that deep, blank stare that directly translates to: “so what the heck are you planning on doing with your life?” As the holidays quickly approached along with my last semester of college, I had a pretty good guess as to what the favorite Christmas family dinner conversation would be.

While I may not know exactly what my plan is post-graduation, I know that I will be leaving William & Mary a better thinker, writer, communicator, and leader than when I sat at convocation three and a half years ago. While perhaps Government and Hispanic Studies don’t directly translate to a specific type of work, the skills I have learned through the study of these subjects can help me succeed in a myriad of fields. Just ask the staff here in IT, and perhaps some of your post-grad anxieties can be laid to rest.

Upon entering the IT department, I imagined I’d be working with mostly exclusively computer science majors. However, you may be surprised to find that the IT department is comprised of all kinds of majors, including Philosophy, History, International Relations, and Biology. So this begs the question, “Can I too really enter a field that isn’t obviously related to my major?”

According to the IT department, the answer is “yes, definitely!” After having the pleasure of speaking with some members of IT, it became clear to me that it’s not necessarily what you studied, but how you think that really matters. Bernadette Kenney, Deputy CIO, says that majoring in Philosophy equipped her with the critical thinking, logic, and writing skills that are valued in a complex field like IT. She explained to me the importance of identifying and emphasizing skills honed within your major that are transferable to different types of jobs. Similarly, with a Bachelor of Science in Textiles and Fashion, Bonnie Fleming, Communications and Project Manager, learned how to pay attention to smaller details while still taking into account a larger picture.

Even within our technical engineering staff, you’ll find much more than computer science majors. Matt Keel, a W&M economics graduate, realized his junior year that IT was the right career path for him.  He mirrors the sentiments of his colleagues that having a liberal arts background gives you the ability to adapt quickly to all kinds of careers. Clark Morledge, network engineer, completed undergraduate with a degree in mathematics, and then continued on to seminary school, graduating in 1998 with a masters in Theology.  "Going from Theology to Information Technology may seem like a big jump, but sometimes what we do here in IT takes a lot of faith," quipped a coworker.

So whether you are just starting your time here at William & Mary, or if you are within weeks of buying your cap and gown, take heart in the fact that we will be leaving college well equipped for the “real world.” Utilize some advice from our friends in IT and take some time to identify your strengths, find something that interests you, and don’t be afraid to end up in a field that never previously fell on your radar. You may be surprised (and even pleased) with where you end up.