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Liberal Arts Programs at Western Provide Practical Job Skills

Student at computer with book

When Western Colorado University was the first college established on the Western Slope in 1901, the primary dedication of the school was providing teacher preparation programs. By 1923, the university had expanded its programming to include liberal arts studies. While Western now offers an extensive amount of STEM programs, liberal arts at Western are still centerfold. These programs give students the opportunity to study their craft while gaining practical and applicable job skills that easily transfer to the workforce.

Expanding Music Competency

The music department at Western is dedicated to giving their students competency beyond the use of music performance. Along with the music education program, where students learn how to teach music classes and conduct an ensemble, the department offers a music industry program. In this track, students are taught how to use music production technology and the “ins and outs” of the business side of music.

“This degree focuses on making and incorporating digital music production, in particular,” said Dr. Ben Justis, director of percussion and lecturer in music theory and technology. “So, songwriting and beat making, and recording arts and live sound reinforcement. There’s also a really big business component as well,”

Building 21st Century Skills

Justis said that students not only learn how to produce music and set a stage using the proper equipment, but how to work with music contracting and licensing.

“What it’s really looking at is a lot of 21st-century skills in music,” he said.

While the music industry program track focuses on providing marketable job skills, Justis said the music department provides practical know-how regardless of the track.

“Musicians are kind of scientists, they take themselves incredibly seriously. What they do with their voice or instrument is incredibly analytical,” said Justis. “In addition to all the team building they do in our musical ensembles and how every single individual affects the whole of the group, there’s something that I think is always practical and it’s really baked into all of our music series that we offer here.”

Preparing for a Wide Range of Careers

Along with the music department’s programs, Western’s art department provides several practical majors and minors where students gain ability useful in real-world careers. In the graphic design track, the department offers a minor in website design and development. Here, students learn about design aesthetics and user experience theories, along with the computer science behind building a website.

“If you want to be marketable, it is important to have at least that web design minor under your belt because that’s the future,” said Mayela Cardenas, associate professor of art at Western. “It’s the present and the future, really.”

Cardenas is the head of the graphic design program and says that, after offering the web design and development minor for only two years, the program is taking off.

“Along with the artist side, students learn coding, Python, JavaScript, CSS, and all the basics. Art and computer science are two completely different aspects of the program, but when they come together the student is much more well-rounded and prepared,” said Cardenas.

Equipped for the Workforce

STEM programs are blossoming, but Western is dedicated to the liberal arts programs offered as well. Through these programs, Western Colorado University is ensuring art students are equipped with the proper set of skills to be successful in the workforce while continuing to practice their craft.

Discover Western’s Music Department and Art Department.



Author Credit: Kinlee Whitney

Photo Credit: Randall Gee

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