Liberal Arts - Teaching People to Think: Video Transcript

Margaret Peterson Haddix (BA English/Creative Writing, English/Journalism, and History, Miami, 1986) [well-known children's author of The Shadow Children series, The Missing series, and other books]: I'm a children's author, and I write books for kids and teens.

I started out as a newspaper reporter and worked for newspapers for a while and had always had the dream that I wanted to write books and do a lot of fiction, and ultimately ended up doing that after taking a few twists and turns along the way. I taught for a while, in the midst of doing other things, was also always trying to write, and ended up having my first book published, and it's gone on since then.

I grew up in a very small town and had very little exposure to anybody who was of a different race or a different culture, and although I knew Miami is not the most diverse campus around, it was an eye-opening experience for me because in many cases it exposed me to a lot of things. One of the things that I did as a student was that I studied in Luxembourg and traveled around Europe a lot, and that in particular exposed me to a lot of different things that I'd never thought about and a lot of different people that I wasn't aware of. Having done that also gave me courage; then when I became a reporter after college, I felt comfortable talking to people who had very different backgrounds than I had.

I think the biggest way that the liberal arts degree that I got at Miami has prepared me for what I'm doing now is that it taught me how to learn new things, because constantly, in the books that I'm writing, I'm needing to do research, and needing to find out more information, and I think that was a very valuable thing that I learned here—was basically how to find out what I want to know. Obviously, also having had the training in writing here, I think every day of things that I learned as a Miami student.

As a student at Miami, I greatly appreciated the accessibility of many of the professors that I had, and I was very eager to learn from them and appreciated that they in many cases took personal interest in students and encouraged students to not just do well, but take the level they were at and do even better. I definitely appreciated the professors at Miami. I also greatly made a lot of great friends here at Miami and appreciated the dorm life. I was very lucky to be involved in the honors program and met many great friends through that living in Bishop Hall.

I think a liberal arts education is extremely valuable because it teaches people to think. It is very difficult to look toward the future and know the facts that people are going to know, to know what technical skills people are going to need in the future, but if you know how to think, and if you know how to learn, you are in good shape going off into an uncertain future.

The advice I would have for current students thinking about looking towards the future and what they're going to do after college is to, first of all, take advantage of the opportunities that they've had here on campus and make sure that they haven't neglected to take advantage of what they might be interested in. I would say also to look at what has made them feel very passionate here on campus and look at that as a springboard toward the future.

[November 2013]