During the summer of 2009, the Bates College Dean of Faculty’s office sponsored a survey of 1,938 alumni who majored in math and sciences and graduated between 1990 and 2008. The survey was supported by funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Eight hundred eleven alumni responded, making a response rate of nearly 42 per cent. Among respondents, 97 per cent completed math/science majors while 3 per cent also reported non-science degrees as double majors. Biology, mathematics, and biological chemistry accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the science/math majors.
Among the survey’s many purposes, the College wanted to understand how alumni view their undergraduate education in light of their current careers: have alumni persisted in the sciences, and in their opinion did Bates provide them with the tools they needed to achieve their goals?
Advanced degrees were earned by 76 per cent of respondents (614). More than half have earned an M.A., M.S., or M.B.A.; nearly 20 per cent have earned a doctorate and nearly 15 per cent have earned medical degrees. Among respondents, 57 per cent agree that math and science mattered greatly in the context of their liberal arts education. Similarly, 56 per cent strongly agree that the study of math or science at Bates prepared them for their current activities, and 60 per cent strongly agree that their current job is linked to their math and science background.
Although analysis is still underway, among other preliminary findings physicians and surgeons were among the most outspoken in their support of math and science in the context of the liberal arts. For example, one biology major from the class of 1986 wrote:
As I continue my medical training, one aspect of my Bates education that I value highly – in addition to a strong science foundation – is an emphasis on writing well. Partly because of Bates’ strong emphasis on disciplines beyond math and science, I find that I am more able to communicate my scientific endeavors through writing – a skill that is not particularly common among physician-scientists.
The skills that alumni attributed to their Bates education included the ability to communicate with a wide range of people, to see the connections between ideas and disciplines, and to be able to organize and express ideas well orally and in writing.