The president of Kentucky State University says higher education faces “a dangerous situation” with mounting questions about the value of college in preparing students for a global marketplace.
Mary Evans Sias, who’s led the historically black, liberal arts, land-grant institution for the past 10 years, told the 2014 USA Funds® Symposium that higher education leaders must work daily to prepare students to succeed in the global society.
“We need to create a culture and environment where our students can see how they could succeed,” Sias said. “And we need to provide the opportunity for students and for diverse stakeholders to come together around a common set of values that push for global preparation.”
Sias said liberal arts education and career preparation are not mutually exclusive. She said a liberal arts education can give students “the skills they can apply not only in their first graduate course or a job, but to subsequent career moves and challenges.”
The challenge for higher education institutions, according to the Kentucky State University president, is ensuring graduates leave campus with critical thinking and practical problem solving skills.
To that end, Sias cited five capabilities students should have when they graduate:
- The ability to communicate and interact well with others, both orally and in writing.
- A track record of engagement with on-campus organizations and in the larger community.
- Recognition that they are entering a competitive global marketplace and an understanding that learning is lifelong.
- Critical thinking skills and the ability to integrate knowledge from different sources to make informed decisions
- A future orientation.
Sias asked college and university leaders to consider a list of questions as they work to transform their institutions to better prepare their students:
- Does your institution’s mission statement say anything about preparing students for the global workforce?
- Have you updated your strategic plan?
- What do you need to do to develop your students across your programs, and have you put metrics in place to measure success and drill down at all levels?
- Have you updated your first-year experience program to include some elements of career development?
- Are you bringing in alumni who have succeeded and can inspire students and serve as mentors?
- Do you have advisory councils in place for your programs and departments, not just your business school?
- Do you have mentors in students’ majors who can advise and assist the students?
- How do students on your campus find out about course offerings in and beyond the department?
- What are you doing about sharing majors and minors on your campus?
- Have you looked at your career centers lately?
- Do you have a center that’s helping students engage in extracurricular activities and research?
- What are you doing about the professional development of your faculty and staff?
- Who’s teaching the soft skills on your campus about how to interview and dress? Is anyone helping your students develop good listening skills?
- Do you have a global education person? What are you doing to ensure your students understand different cultures? Have you started to internationalize your curriculum in every program?
- What kind of technology are you using on your campus to better help with communications and the education of your students?
- What are you doing with social networking? How does it support teamwork, including online investigation, resource sharing and knowledge construction?
- How many of you have 24/7 tutoring systems on your campus?
- Have you considered having your students prepare e-portfolios to collect all of the things they’ve done and put them in a fashion that they can tell their own story when it’s time to graduate?
- Do you have a genuine dialogue with the business community?
- Do you have forums on your campus where students can engage in problem solving?
Sias said funding to support these new initiatives could come from federal Title III funds or a shift in institutional resources. She said her university is exploring a new formula for indirect cost recovery on grants awarded to faculty investigators.
“What I’m telling you today is that we must assign ourselves to the business of making global awareness a priority,” Sias said. “And we must do the right thing as a committed people who believe that we can and shall make a difference.”