NYT Op-Ed on “Transformative Education”

In a recent Op-Ed New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, recalls a defining moment from his undergraduate experience in order to take on the reductive thinking that equates college with the need to meet “work force needs.” Bruni recalls a specific lecture on King Lear at the University of North Carolina as “the steppingstone to a more aware, thoughtful existence.” While he acknowledges the need for accountability in higher education, he insists on the impossibility of placing “a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect, which isn’t the fruit
of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy
and a job market that change unpredictably.”

See the link below for the full column.

Bruni on “College’s Priceless Value”

*Thanks to Nick Mason for the reference.

The NEH launches “Common Good” Initiative

National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman, William Adams, recently announced a new grant funding initiative called “The Common Good: The Humanities in the Public Square.” While “public humanities” efforts have long been a priority for colleges and humanities centers across the country, the NEH investment represents a significant milestone in debates over how to value liberal arts education.

Follow the link below for the article from Inside Higher Ed that offers details on the initiative and considers some of its political implications.

“Humanities for America”

*Thanks to Braden Bolton for the link.

Employers want Graduates Better Trained in Soft Skills

A recent survey funded by the American Association of Colleges and Universities shows a striking disparity in how prospective employers and college graduates view their professional preparation. While employers tend to agree with graduates’ self-assessment when it comes to “staying current on technologies,” the survey finds much wider gaps (more than 30 points) in areas such as written and oral communication, critical/analytical thinking, and “locating, organizing, and evaluating information.” Both Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education covered the survey suggesting that it offers support for the value of more general undergraduate education. More specifically, the list of learning outcomes suggests that humanities degrees offer training in highly-prized competencies in today’s work force.   

Below are the links to the articles and survey.

Inside Higher Ed article:

“Well-prepared in Their Own Eyes”

The Chronicle article:

“Students Think they’re Ready for the Work Force”

The AACU survey:

“Falling Short?”

Thanks to Corry Cropper for the Inside Higher Ed link.
Thanks to Rebecca Brazzale for the link to the Chronicle piece.

High-Value Skills in Today’s Marketplace

Forbes magazine cites a recent survey by The National Association of Colleges and Employers that identifies the ten skills most in demand in today’s marketplace. The top five in order of importance can be cultivated in any major, though some, such as verbal communication and the ability to obtain and process information are central to the humanities experience. The key for graduates in finding their way to a satisfying career, is the ability to translate the value of their curricular and extra-curricular experiences to professional environments. Follow the link below for more survey results.


*Thanks to Ben Ogles for the link.

Critical Thinking–What is it and why is it so important?

A Wall Street Journal article explores the increasing currency of a skill traditionally associated with the humanities. Noting that “mentions of critical thinking in job postings have doubled since 2009” the article goes on to explore the challenge of translating this fundamental academic skill across a professional landscape that defines it in various ways. While employers express a strong interest in critically-thinking employees, they tend to have very profession-specific ideas about what this means. The article raises important definitional questions about a core competency identified with liberal arts education. We might ask the same question in the context of the university. How is critical thinking defined across disciplines and curricula? Do some aspects translate from one discipline to the next and, potentially, one profession to the next?

Connect to the full article below:*


*Thanks to Jamie Horrocks for the link.

Gallup Survey Points to the Benefits of Mentoring

In a recent Op-Ed New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, cites Gallup research that bolsters the case for the value of individual mentoring and internship experience for college students.

According to the survey, graduates who had professors “who
cared about them as a person — or had a mentor who encouraged their
goals and dreams and/or had an internship where they applied what they
were learning — were twice as likely to be engaged with their work and
thriving in their overall well-being.”

The data also point to a profound “understanding gap” among college administrators, students, and business leaders. While 22 percent of students claimed to have had meaningful mentoring, college provosts almost universally believed they were successful in preparing students for careers. 14 percent of students and 11 percent of business leaders “strongly believed” graduates were ready for the work force.

Connect to the full column below:


*Thanks to Chip Oscarson for the link.

Experience trumps GPA and College Reputation

The most recent issue of The Atlantic cites a Chronicle of Higher Education study that places experience outside the classroom at a much higher premium than traditional academic achievement measures such as grades and coursework. In this national survey, when it comes to hiring decisions, employers look first to a graduate’s internship and work experience. This should not be taken as a blanket dismissal of academic experience as a factor in professional outcomes (not to mention the more general, and less instrumental, value of undergraduate education). The survey shows that the emphasis on non-academic preparation varies from one industry to another. It also does not account for how selection of major and success in coursework creates college internship and work opportunities in the first place.  

The Atlantic article also contains a link to the full Chronicle survey.


Thanks to Scott Sprenger for the link.

Internships replace OJT

During and since the Great Recession employers have raised experience requirements and internships increasingly substitute for on-the-job training. Entry-level work requires more thinking and less checklist following than in the past with employers placing greater emphasis on soft skills such as interacting with clients. 

Read the Wall Street Journal article here:


Thanks to Scott Sprenger for the link.

Fareed Zakaria On the Liberal Arts, Careers and the Good Life

Schooled in India, where the best education was rote memorization of technical knowledge, Fareed Zakaria tells in his recent graduation speech at Sarah Lawrence College how he discovered the power and advantage of liberal education in the U.S. He learned how to write, think, express himself and, above all, to self-teach.

In an era when successful companies, organizations, and even individual careers, depend on adaptability and innovation, the liberal arts should be central to everyone’s education.

Listen to Zakaria’s perspective here:


Full speech can be found here: http://www.slc.edu/news-events/events/commencement/fareed-zakaria-keynote.html

*thanks to Lynn Williams for link