Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Redefining Liberal Arts: The Future of Liberal Arts in a Hybrid World

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- There is no audio other than my voice.

I'm gonna go ahead.

Once we get started here,

I'll pull the link and we'll put that in the chat box,

and that'll give you access to the slides

so you can follow along with us.

The webcast is being recorded and we'll make sure

that we send you a link to the recording next week.

And sometimes, we get way more questions

than we have a chance to answer.

If that's the case, we'll be sure to pull those out,

and share 'em with our presenters,

and then get responses back to you.

So again, this is the WCET Webcast,

Redefining Liberal Arts:

The Future of Higher Education and STEM Education.

So as we go through,

if you have any questions at all,

enter them into the Q&A box.

You can also use the chat box.

Again, you can access the link to the PowerPoint

as soon as I have a chance to drop that in the chat.

We tend to have a pretty active Twitter back channel,

and the hashtag is WCETWebcast.

So as we are ready to get started, I'll introduce myself.

I'm Megan Raymond,

I'm the director of programs here at WCET.

And if you're not familiar with WCET,

be sure to go on our website.

We have lots of resources

and you can access all of our previous webinars

on our YouTube channel so be sure to check us out.

Again, if you have any questions,

enter them into the Q&A box.

We'll hold questions toward the end

unless we feel the need to answer a question

during the presentation but please keep the questions going.

Today, I'm also your moderator,

and my twitter handle is meraymond.

We have a wonderful lineup of speakers today

and I'm very thrilled

to have them do brief self introductions.

I'll go ahead and list their names

and then we'll start with introductions.

So Michael Horn is an author

and formerly with the Clayton Christensen Institute,

and is the CEO of Adjacent Academies.

And Alexandra is a student.

She's in her senior year at Davidson College.

So Michael, go ahead and do an introduction.

- Terrific, thanks so much!

Well, currently, I'm the head of strategy

for the Entangled Group,

and co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute,

and the author of the new book, "Choosing College",

which gets into some of the issues

that we'll be talking about today,

so thrilled to be with you.

Megan, you want me to jump into what I would have been?

- Sure, sure!

I do like to ask our presenters,

if they weren't in this space of higher ed ed tech,

what they would be doing otherwise.

So Michael, what would your answer be?

- Sorry to preempt you on that, but it's been on my mind.

I would be a jazz pianist, that's what I would be.

- Fascinating!

And are you musically talented and trained?

- I am a pianist.

I just made the decision at some points

from my liberal arts classroom

that piano is not the way

to earn a living wage in the longterm,

so I pivoted to education.

- Great!

Anh, go ahead and do your intro

and tell us what you would be doing

if you weren't in this fabulous space of ed tech.

- Hi, everybody!

Thanks for joining us today and thanks to all the co-hosts.

As Megan mentioned, I'm the CEO of Adjacent Academies,

and my background is largely in education,

education technology, and HR tech.

Right before joining Adjacent,

I was at a company called Koru

which helped focus on soft skills development and assessment

for large-scale companies,

and then prior to that,

spent a decade at the Gates Foundation

in both the K-12 and higher ed teams.

So as you can hear,

a lot of interest in passion like Michael around education

and around opportunity.

If I weren't doing that,

and I feel really grateful

to have the opportunity to do that full-time,

I would be a full-time Little League Softball coach.

- Anh told me that earlier and I admire her passion

and her patience to do something like that.

And Alexandra, if you weren't pursuing

the degree that you were doing

and weren't in your senior year at college,

what would you be doing?

- Everyone, my name's Alexandra,

I'm an environmental studies senior at Davidson College.

If I weren't pursuing environmental studies,

I would be doing culinary school, I think.

- Fantastic!

And clearly, we all have some liberal arts passions,

so to be fair,

I would answer the question as a park ranger,

and I was telling Anh that as I've gotten older,

I become more fair weather.

So it'd be a fair weather,

likely part-time park ranger,

but that would give me the ability to get out

and make sure that I'm sharing the love of our trails

and open spaces.

So Anh, why don't you go ahead and get started

with framing the conversation we're gonna have today?

- Sounds good.

Before we dive into the content,

we just wanted to make sure we're clear

on what we want everyone to get out of today's conversation.

So we hope you'll walk away with at least three things.

One is an understanding about some of the skills

and opportunities that are really defining

the future for graduates

of liberal arts institutions and studies.

The second is a student perspective.

This is where Ale comes in

about how students are thinking about accessing opportunity

in the ever-changing world.

And then the third is some ideas about how institutions

are integrating humanities

with science and technology learning.

So at large, that hopefully,

we'll walk away with those three things,

hopefully a lot more,

and feel free to post questions in the chat.

We'll try to address them at the end

and if there are some burning ones,

we'll pause throughout to answer.

- Thank you.

- So we always like to start a bit

with what the opportunities is for students

after they go to school.

And we hear a lot, as you know,

around the jobs that our highest demand,

that we hear that they really bucket into two categories.

There's a lot of conversation around jobs

and opportunities related to healthcare,

as you can see around medical technology, around RNs,

but also, there's a large category

of jobs that you read about

that relate to analytics and technology,

so things like being a web developer,

things like being a data scientist.

And the question is are those truly the jobs

that are highest in demand?

And the spoiler alert is that they're not.

That, in fact, what we see

from a lot of research in the field and work with employers

is that the jobs that are in the most demand

are called hybrid jobs.

And that may be something that,

a term that's familiar to you, but conceptually,

what we mean is that the basics of hybrid jobs,

that they are ones

that don't just require one set of skills.

Megan, next slide.

Is that they really require a balance.

So it's the ability to have not just technical knowledge,

but also the ability to integrate non-technical skills

and ways of thinking,

and that those types of jobs,

those blended jobs are, in fact,

the ones that are growing much more rapidly in the economy.

We all know that the jobs of today,

we can't even predict if those jobs will exist tomorrow

or even what they'll be called, in fact,

and that those jobs that require a broader skillset

are not only growing more quickly,

they're more likely to resist automation.

And from an equity and opportunity perspective,

they are likely to be jobs that result in a higher wage.

Michael, I'm curious in your work

with institutions and with students,

does this language come to bear in those conversations?

It could be that there are talk about hybrid jobs,

it could be they call it something else,

but how do you see this coming up?

- Yeah, it's interesting, in our book "Choosing College",

where we got to create basically 200 mini-documentaries

on students choosing college

and how they frame these questions

and then the experience itself during college.

What's so interesting is that students,

particularly in this day and age,

they don't really know what the labor market is like.

They haven't held jobs when they were in high school,

and so they don't have any clear sense.

And so, my take on it is

we see these hybrid jobs growing in importance

and it's the responsibility, really, of institutions

to intentionally curate and create these opportunities

and expose students to a range of fields, frankly,

so they can start to understand what these new roles

that are emerging in the economy are because otherwise,

they don't have a pointed basis

for even understanding where they could or should go,

and it's really the responsibility of institutions

to surface the opportunities.

The second thing, really quickly,

is that we also see from the research

that specializing too early

actually can be quite dangerous for students

'cause it can send you down a particular career path

that might not be there in the future

or might not actually not match your passions

once you get a much clearer sense of what you like

and don't like from knowing what's out there.

And so, not only is it important to curate these pathways

into hybrid jobs intentionally,

it's also important for students for their later success

to be able to navigate and succeed

in a way that matches their ultimate passions.

- Great.

So I think I hear from you Michael this idea

that sometimes we hear that it's important

to specialize early,

that students will, as a result,

people talk about the T,

be a generalist but then develop a deep spike,

and that in so doing that,

students are able to become expert more quickly,

and I think you're saying

that there's some risk associated with that,

particularly in an economy that is changing rapidly

and where the skillsets

and the platforms that people are applying those skills to

are always changing.

And so, as we think about what the soft skills are,

and soft skills is one word for them.

I think we hear them called other things.

So we've heard essential skills,

or some institutions call them the non-perishable skills,

the skills that we really endure

despite what specific technologies exist,

and you can see some of those here,

but the ability to think creatively

and problem-solve quite differently,

the ability to collaborate in diverse teams

to find new solutions, to adapt,

to manage time, to manage ambiguity really well,

and those are things

that we know from an employer perspective,

we hear that the majority of employers say that those,

in fact, are what's most important,

and that the ability, if somebody has those things,

then they're more likely to be able to train them

on the technical skills,

but it's actually harder to skill people up

on these types of skills.

The next slide shares a little bit about

some of the technical skills that are emerging,

and some of this research comes out of Burning Glass

around skills such as computing,

AI, data analytics, et cetera.

Megan, next slide.

But what's interesting to see

is that it's not necessarily again

this bright line between these enduring essential skills

and these hard skills, that in fact,

they're coming together over time.

And I think, Michael, this is also something

that you're seeing in your research.

Could you share a little bit more about that?

- Yeah, totally.

I think the phrase that you used is right

which is that the bright line between these

is really disappearing,

and what we're seeing is that

in what economists would call a kind environment

where it's very predictable and so forth.

It's deep specialization, incredibly important,

some of those soft skills may be less important,

like just digging in and building a back base,

but we're in a world right now

that's incredibly interdependent,

unpredictable, changing rapidly,

and what we're seeing is that innovation actually comes

from the combining of different areas,

and creativity is, in fact, a function

of coming at things from different perspectives.

And so, if you're just too laser-focused

on one of these hard skills, say,

you're gonna miss the opportunity to enter intersections,

you really develop back creativity.

And so, many of these soft skills

obviously have generalizable components

but they really come to bear

when you can bring a number of disciplines together

within some domain knowledge as well

to exercise critical thinking or other skills

that weren't necessarily on that first slide,

but really where the magic of all this comes together

is in the intersection

of bringing lots of disciplines together.

- Again, that's right.

And I think, certainly,

something we found at Koru where I was last,

and Anh at Adjacent, actually,

is that those essential skills,

those power skills are really taught in context.

It's not like you can sit someone down and say,

okay, now we're gonna do a session on teamwork,

and now, we're gonna do a session

about thinking about deep impact.

You actually have to be in the process

of solving something with other people

in order to be able to practice, get feedback on,

and then iterate really quickly

your opportunity to build that skill,

and that the environments

that offer students, adults, et cetera

the opportunity to really dig deep

and problem-solve lifetime

are the ones where we likely see the most acceleration

in those types of essential skills

alongside some of the technical skills.

And I think, too, if you think about the types of companies

and the problems and the questions that are being solved,

so the next slide, there are three examples here

on Pinterest, OpenTable, and Uber

that everyone thinks of these companies as tech companies.

They technically live in that space.

But at the end of the day,

the problems that they are trying to solve

are human problems.

They're about human behavior.

They're trying to understand how people create communities.

They're trying to understand people's patterns and behavior

when it comes to eating out, why they eat out,

the type of communities like to form

while they're doing that.

They're trying to understand how people travel

and what their patterns of transport look like,

and that it doesn't require

just having an engineer to answer these questions

so with OpenTable, it's an engineer alongside someone

who maybe has an anthropology background

and can sit and observe people dining.

But at the end of the day,

there are these really big questions that, in fact,

really require the ability to think creatively

and think critically,

and then create an idea that can then be implemented

in some sort of technical way.

So as we think about the liberal arts,

and we're all here, I think,

because we have a lot of respect for the liberal arts,

and think that the students

who come from a humanities background

have a lot to contribute,

and that, in fact, those students are really prepared

because they have a very strong foundation.

They're able to think critically,

they're able to analyze not within their own discipline

but across multiple contexts,

and a lot of the liberal arts is about pattern recognition.

It's about being able to see something,

ask a set of informed questions about it, dig more deeply,

and then make connections to really think innovatively

about how you address that.

We would say that some people talk

about reinventing in the liberal arts.

I would say that the liberal arts adds a lot of value.

It's not about replacing the liberal arts,

it's about augmenting the opportunity that students have.

We've talked a little bit about the skills

and the opportunities

and how these hybrid skills come together

in new opportunities going forward,

and I think it'd be great

to talk specifically now about students,

the second point we wanna talk about

which is how are students thinking about this?

Sometimes, adults come in the room and they say,

oh, well, students are studying humanities

and they don't really know

that there's this bigger world around them,

and I actually don't still think that's true.

I think that many students

who are in liberal arts and humanities,

they are really thinking about what lies ahead for them.

Maya is a student that we were able to work with last summer

who chose very intentionally

to go to a liberal arts education.

She's at Scripps studying art.

She really wanted a diverse education.

She also knew

that she didn't wanna be constrained to galleries

and knew that the scale of impact with technology is broader

so she chose a digital art major.

And she didn't feel comfortable

taking technical courses on campus

because she didn't see people like her in those courses.

She said, "I wanted to become proficient in technology

"with people who have a similar level of proficiency,

"but also have a similar aspiration."

She said, "I don't wanna be a developer at Google.

"I think there's probably other things I can do."

And she walked away from her experience

being really motivated around design and around UI, UX.

Another student has a slightly different story,

Alex on the next slide.

He, like Ale, is at Davidson,

and he has always had a motivation around technology

but he feels like he wanted an opportunity

where he said, quote,

he wanted a holistic approach to learning technology

in a way that kept other people in mind

and kept really the societal impact perspective.

He wanted to surround himself with people

who wanted to think not just about the technical skills

but also that balance of soft skills, societal impact,

and bring that to bear.

And today, we have Ale, who, as you heard,

she's the senior at Davidson.

She just made it past her capstone project

which was really intense.

She's really excited to be past that in senior spring.

Super exciting!

I'd love to ask Ale a few questions

and get your thoughts on how you think about your education

and how you think about carrying that forward

into the impact that you wanna have.

First, really simple question is we see

that you're an environmental studies and philosophy major,

how did you choose your major?

- Yeah.

So, hi, everyone.

Thank you so much for having me.

I chose environmental studies

because before coming to Davidson,

I had a really big interest in sustainability

but I didn't really know what that looks like,

and I chose a liberal arts education

because it lets you go into school

without knowing what exactly you wanna do,

and they encourage you

to try out different courses and majors,

and so, I went in, took a lot of different courses,

found myself still gravitating to environmental studies,

and I chose the social science track

because they let me look at things

from a sociological perspective,

anthropological perspective, economics perspective

so I ended up majoring in that.

And I was really passionate about the reasoning

and ethics part of answering big sustainability topics

so I became a philosophy minor as well.

- Great!

So it sounds like you had this real interest

in thinking about different questions

and applying your thinking in different contexts.

I know you eventually

developed a curiosity around technology.

Is that something that's always been a curiosity?

Did you feel like something was missing,

and so you're trying to fill a hole?

Tell us a little bit more about that.

- Yeah, so I did not have any interest

in anything technical at first

but in my junior year,

once I started looking into internship postings

and looking at positions

where I envisioned myself at in the future

that I was really passionate about,

I saw that having some technical skill was a bonus

and something that I was lacking

so I knew I had to work on that

and I knew that I was really prepared

for these positions in the first place

because of my education at Davidson

and the whole interdisciplinary approach,

I was just missing that one aspect,

so I decided to take a data science course

and it gave me a bit more of technical ability

'cause I learned art

but I still felt like I needed something else

so I applied to Adjacent

because they really spoke about being tech curious

and that's what I define myself as

so I went ahead and did that.

- I obviously know how that went.

How and just why not take more data science

or computer science classes on campus?

- Yeah, so I had seen those courses,

and sometimes, I actually added it to my course load

but the first week during syllabus week,

I saw it was all computer science majors, all STEM majors,

and I didn't, one, feel comfortable,

or two, I didn't really feel confident in that space

because I had no background.

It was a very competitive atmosphere

and that wasn't something that I felt comfortable doing.

I felt like everyone had a lot more experience than me

so I ended up dropping those courses.

- So you dropped those courses

'cause they potentially just weren't a good fit

for you at that time.

You did Adjacent

which is a immersive study, away experience,

and now, on the other side of that,

how did that affect you?

What do you think in doing?

Has anything changed about

how you think about technical skills

or technical opportunities?

- Yeah.

So after Adjacent,

I realized that if I actually wanted

to become a UX designer, a programmer,

I could because I learned JavaScript and CSS

in a very short period of time.

And not only did I learn those languages

but it gave me the tools

to learn how to learn any other language

or any technical slope that I wanted to learn,

and it also gave me the confidence to apply to jobs

where I would eventually need those skills

even if I didn't have that ability necessarily,

like a specific tool or language,

I knew that I could still do it and teach myself,

and just gave me the ability

to keep learning about technical skills

that I was interested in.

- All right, well, thanks for that.

Michael, do you have any questions for Ale?

Actually, while we have a minute?

- That's very good.

Sure thing, yeah.

I'm just curious as something that's come up

is how employers understand these credentials

and how you translate what you've learned

from both the liberal arts and the technical skills

and having those conversations.

I'm just curious to hear how that experience has been.

- I'm sorry, to clarify,

so, through the interview process with employers?

- Yeah, exactly.

Exactly, yeah, yeah.

- So a lot of the positions that I've been applying for

aren't necessarily for something in the tech field

but they ask me if I have some confidence in that.

And it seems like it's been a plus

during my interview process.

I tell them that,

so I'm looking at a lot of sustainability analyst roles

and in sustainability analysis, it's a new role,

but they do use a lot of programming languages like R, SQL,

and tools like Icon.

For example, Icon is a tool that I took on

to use for my capstone last semester

and I didn't know how to use the tool

but talking to my school, they were able to purchase it

and I was able to teach myself how to use it.

And a lot of employers that I've talked to,

they're like, wow, people don't know how to use that

coming out of college,

still being an undergraduate student.

For example, I've talked to someone who said,

"You would need SQL."

And I told them, "Well, I don't know SQL

"but I did do the six-week program

"where I was able to learn JavaScript and CSS in four weeks

"and I feel confident in teaching myself that,

"and I do have some background with R."

So it's just more the confidence in being able to do it

and saying that I have the skills to teach myself

at an entry-level position

rather than being a computer science major

who knows how to do everything.

It's kind of how I frame it

that it's not my specialty but I can do it.

- I think it's interesting you say that, Ale,

because there's this question in the chat

around articulating, quote, soft skills to employers,

and I think when you're in school,

the way that most institutions are structured,

they're on disciplines.

And so, you think about I'm a history major, I know history,

or I'm an English major, I know English, know how to write.

There's an opportunity I call the decoder ring,

it's like the secret decoder ring

between what you majored in and the world of work,

and there's an opportunity in certain types of environments

to help translate, sure, you may know history,

but really what it is is that ability

to analyze all information, form opinions, et cetera,

or for what you're talking about, Ale,

is it's not necessarily that sustainability.

And the thing that you communicated

in that interview that you referenced

is that you have this different way of thinking

and you have the ability to take on a new language

and figure it out.

So the more that I think we can give students

the opportunity to immerse themselves in experiences

that help them or force them out of the discipline,

and either are interdisciplinary

or are really more focused

on the skill they're actually using,

to answer a problem as opposed to the problem itself,

that the more value there is there.

- Yeah, definitely, because that technical skill

is not what they're looking for,

versus they're usually still looking for sustainability,

all of these courses that I've taken

in sociology and political science

but I'm able to add this other layer, like, okay,

but I can get into the nitty gritty and use data analytics

to help answering these questions

while still having this big systems-thinking approach

that I developed in college.

- Great!

Well, thank you for sharing your perspective

and we wish you the best of luck,

and can't wait to see what you do with everything.

- Thank you so much for having me.

- Thanks, Ale.

So we've had the chance to talk a little bit about skills,

a little bit about the student perspective,

and we'd love to shift gears

and spend a little bit of time talking about

how institutions and some ideas about how institutions

are giving students these different opportunities.

The value of this is not just to the students but overall,

as we think about enabling more students and graduates

to have this blend of skills,

that there's not just higher job placements

but also reducing poverty,

and the thing I think that's not here

is maybe more of an ethical moral question

of as we move into a world

that is extremely tech and innovation-driven,

there is certainly critique

around leaders that are pure tech.

Actually, yesterday's Inside Higher Ed,

there was an issuing article

by a woman who has been on the side of STEM education in CS

and saying now that she feels

that you can go too far

and that there's real value and more value

in having leaders who have not just the ability

to think technically and can ask those questions

but come from the perspective of the ethics and values

in making decisions,

that really good decisions

that will affect society differently

and not just thinking about the tools.

At Adjacent, we talk a lot about

we want the students coming out of Adjacent

to be really technically capable

but we would be doing them a disservice

if they felt that technology lacked values

and didn't express values.

So if you come out really great at writing a line of code

but you have no sense of any bias

you might be pulling forward in a product that you make

or any negative impact that you have it on community,

that we actually haven't done a good job.

And so, this idea that it's a win-win

not just for students and institutions but at large,

it's a win-win for everybody.

So there are a handful of institutions

that are doing a number of things to help students

try on different opportunities

and develop a different set of skills.

What we'd like to do here

is to walk through a couple of ideas,

share a little bit of the research based around it,

and then talk about specifically

about what the institutions are doing.

We wanted to flag them for you.

We're not gonna go into detail on what they're doing

but just wanted to highlight them here.

So the first general idea is the opportunity for students

to try on related careers that fit their interests.

This isn't a new idea but certainly,

there are more institutions that are doing this

in a real authentic way,

giving students the opportunity

to try things on in a low-risk way.

I think sometimes, students,

particularly those who are high-achieving

feel that taking one step,

if it's not a perfect step, is a bad step.

And so, the question is

how are universities offering

career advising and internships

that give them a chance to try things on

and they can decide whether or not

that's something you wanna continue trying on

or try something else on.

Michael, what are you seeing with respect to this idea?

- Yeah.

There's a fair amount of research on this question

that's really come to light in the last several years.

There's a Carnegie Mellon professor,

Robert Miller in economics and statistics

that basically shows that

when you're thinking about career matching,

getting a lot of reps in

in a lot of different fields is extraordinarily important.

He has a slot machine analogy

of playing many slot machines

and figuring out which one

has the greatest probability for you to be successful

isn't extraordinary important.

There's also a lot of research

from Todd Rose in the book "Dark Horse",

David Epstein in "Range" that shows that people

who are the most successful in their field

actually, on average, tend to come

from unpredictable backgrounds

that see them wander a little bit in their 20s

before they find their place.

And so, giving people opportunities

to try on related careers that fit their interests

is extraordinarily important.

And if you get people too quickly on a narrow track,

you actually cut off this exploration process

that may be important to their future success.

- Yup, so one institution that has done this really well

is UT Arlington where they are,

I think a common thread that you'll see in these examples

is they are trying to enable the interdisciplinary travel.

It's this idea of the art and art history departments

really thinking about really applied concentrations,

whether it be in packaging or a degree in music

where they're able to take classes in the business school,

and then have internships and alumni lined up

to help them actually go and do those

either short-form or longterm.

So that's one specific example.

I think the second idea is, Megan, when you click ahead,

is the actual idea of applied learning,

and Northeastern is obviously a very well-known example here

because of the co-op model

where students are able to actually work

as a part of their education.

And Michael, I'm curious if there are other examples here

in the research you see here

around concurrent application of learning

in addition to the education.

- Yeah, I think one of the greatest examples

out there right now is College Unbound.

Super innovative experiment out of Providence

where the curriculum is essentially rooted

in the actual work and experiences

you have on a day-to-day basis,

and it speaks to what Stephen Kosslyn,

who would be founding academic dean at Minerva,

now foundry, a former Harvard professor has written about

that engagement by students is the number one factor

in whether they actually learn.

You have to engage them

and get them in an active learning experience.

And then secondly, it's also important

obviously transferring the learnings in the classroom

to real life,

and that's what Northeastern obviously has done so well

is make those connections explicit over time,

but there's a dual purpose

to applying what you're doing in the classroom

to real practical problems that are better-facing,

and also engaging, frankly, the generation that's coming in

that wanna tackle messy societal problems

with the education system.

- Yeah, I think College Unbound

is a really interesting model

and I think there's obviously some challenges,

and they have the opportunity of a flexible structure

that enables them to operate that way,

and I think more institutions are figuring out how do we,

in the context

of a more traditional academic calendar in space,

how do we create spaces for that,

whether it's semester away or summer study.

The third idea we wanted to highlight

is around more collaboration across departments.

So here, Adjacent has been an interesting example of this.

We work really closely with Davidson College

and have been incredibly impressed with the faculty,

not just in the CS department

where we're developing some technical courses

but also the collaboration with the English department.

So one of the courses of the study

weight experiences around science fiction and technology

which is a space to enable students

to really wrestle with the morals and ethics of tech,

and so it's been really awesome to see the English faculty

really engage with the CS faculty

in not just picking the topics

but exploring the really present examples

of that in technology

to offer students a space to discuss that.

Michael, where are you seeing this come up?

- Companies like 3M, for example,

actually see that the majority

of their patents that they create

and innovations that they produce come at the intersection

of people working across fields and departments,

and so actually moving beyond specialization

is incredibly important.

BCG many years ago created incentives out of this

because they realized people

that actually lacked specialization

but knew just enough about a field

and many, many other fields were able to create huge games,

and so modeling this in schools creates enormous value

that actually then carries over to real life in the future.

And I think it's one that students,

even if they can't explicitly tie it to the institution,

they implicitly realize that these habits of learning,

and means working across departments

creates this nimbleness

that you really need in today's world.

- And how are you seeing that

on the other side with employers?

Or in the (audio cuts off) at large?

- Yeah, in the workforce.

So they're starting to realize it.

I think if you had this conversation 10 years ago,

and one of the reasons

I think we over-indexed frankly on STEM careers and so forth

was that people were so obsessed

over lack of technical skills

and you need science, technology, engineering,

mathematics at all costs.

And I think employers are starting to realize that actually,

there's deficits if they go too specialized,

and that really, their imperative in this economy

is to create growth that comes from unexpected places

and that only comes from the mixing and matching.

And there's actually some really interesting experiments

that even show so diversity of experiences on teams

better than all people who are hyper-specialized.

But actually, diversity of experiences in an individual

often trumps the diversity on teams.

Like having an individual that can literally be like,

on the one hand this, but on the other hand,

so this other perspective that,

and so building that intentionally into individuals

is incredibly important

for creating breakthrough innovations

which employers realize that they have,

and I think they're starting to get wiser to the fact

that they have to move toward this.

One of the challenges is I think sometimes,

HR departments are a little risk-averse

but if you can actually get to the hiring managers

and the people on the front lines themselves,

they see this on the day-to-day,

and so, that's, for students and institutions,

for colleges and universities, frankly,

helping students navigate that process

to realize get beyond HR,

actually have conversations

with the real people and the real jobs,

then you can start to see, actually, hyper-specialization

in the long laundry list of credentials

within a particular department,

maybe not the most important thing.

- Yeah, and I think it goes back to this question too

around how do employers assess for these.

Obviously, industries are different,

and there are some

where there are more traditional methods of recruiting,

working on certain target schools,

working off a certain type of resume,

whether it be GPA or if you studied this thing,

then you'll likely be a good fit.

Our experience at Koru,

we saw that there are certainly a number of employers

who are really wrestling with this question

of how do we honestly take

some of the bias out of our hiring

and not just look at where someone went to school

and what they studied

but really start to ask these questions

around how do they show up in a team?

How much emotional intelligence do they have?

Can they present effectively in different environments?

Can they really wrestle with ambiguity?

Are they the type of person who's gonna figure it out

or are they gonna show up at work

and say I need a manual on how to do my job?

And I think that employers do that in a range of ways.

So we've seen that certainly there are assessments

for soft skills that exist.

I think the great thing when we talk to students

about these types of essential skills

is that they are, in fact,

things that you can get better at.

It's not something fixed that actually,

if you are one aware of what those things are,

so I think part of it is actually helping students

develop a different framework,

that being successful in the world of work

isn't about just getting good grades

and doing well on your course

and being able to write good papers,

it's actually about a different set of skills,

and the sooner that students understand what those are,

and then the sooner they have the opportunity

to start telling their own story to say,

okay, I understand that conflict management

is really important,

and let me think about the times in which I had to do that.

That might have been with a roommate,

it might have been on a sports team,

it might have been on a project at school.

And sometimes, students don't see those examples as valid

because they're really focused

on their transcript and their GPA,

but if they can articulate those stories and share those.

then often, those are more powerful to an employer

who honestly is looking at a set of candidates

that typically look really similar

and are probably saying the same types of things.

Ale, actually, I'm curious, while we still have you here,

as you are thinking about those essential skills

and those soft skills,

how have you learned, 'cause I think you have,

to translate that so that you can

not just catch the eye of an employer

but be authentic in your representation

of some of those softer skills?

- Yeah.

So I think that's still a work-in-progress for me

but I think it's mostly during an interview,

in the stories that they ask you,

well, you have to make it a story,

like when they ask you a time you failed

or why did you choose your major,

that's where you highlight those soft skills, I would say.

Personally, for me, school wasn't easy the first few years

so I actually do have a story of saying

I had to overcome school being very difficult for me

for many various personal reasons,

and I create a story of just overcoming that

and having to be honest about that,

I'm working on myself asking for help,

relying on not other people

but just working with other people

so I can get through that

and I think that exemplifies teamwork, conflict resolution.

It's about telling a story about yourself

and marketing yourself as just not just a GPA

and a cold resume.

- (laughs) Yeah, yeah.

I think that's right

and I think that that point of storytelling

is really important,

and we have found that a lot of students,

again, just have the opportunity

to think about that and practice that

and really just go through the exercise

of, sure, I solved a math problem

or did a set of problem sets but really,

what did I have to do in doing that?

And he was asking that question of why was it hard?

What did you have to come to?

I know that, at Career and Adjacent,

we do a lot with students around that translation

and helping them tell their authentic story.

The last idea here before we break

for some dedicated Q&A time

is around really how do we make this type of learning

and make it more accessible to a broader set of students?

Certainly, you heard that refrain

when I was sharing a bit more about Maya and Alex

and Ale herself shared a bit about that too.

Michael, I know you've done a bit of work here

as you think about diversity of minds,

you said diversity within somebody

as opposed to diversity on the team.

Is there anything else you'd like to articulate here

as we think about how we engage more

different types of students in different type of learning?

- Yeah.

Look, the reality is I think companies

are becoming much more aware

that diverse teams have huge benefits.

There's a lot of studies showing ROI improvements

from having more diverse teams.

Even Goldman Sachs now will not work with companies

for public listings

unless there's at least one woman on the board.

There are a lot of steps forward I think right now in this.

And so, for students, A, there's benefits to the diversity

that the companies are recognizing,

but B, being able to work with those teams

is extraordinarily important as you're coming up as well

to a build the cultural habits of what that will look like.

And so, I just think the benefits from every single angle

justify creating more opportunities

for more diverse students to come together

to tackle challenges, not just, again, in the classroom,

but also connecting it to some of the other themes

we've talked about, Anh,

in terms of real-world problems and things of that nature.

That's gonna have huge benefits

if you actually can start showing students

the benefits of it much earlier

and help them see that it's actually valued,

it's not something that's being preached, if you will,

but it's actually valued by parts of society more and more.

- Yeah, it's one of the things that's different,

like you can be their parent and say,

it's really important that you learn this,

and we all know that doesn't work.

But if they come to it on their own,

it's far more meaningful.

It makes me think a lot about someone last summer,

this student, Nate, he said,

"I came out of this and I feel like I'm more of a maker

"because I have these skills

"and I feel I can build and break and build and break."

And he said, "But the thing that surprised me the most

"was that I actually feel like I got better

"at managing conflict when I'm on a campus.

"I do a project with a group of people

"and then I walk away and I have lunch,

"or I go play a sport

"where I don't see that person for two days

"'cause that section doesn't meet,

"it only meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays,

"and so, I can just get by not actually addressing it."

And he said, "In a workplace,"

which Adjacent really feels like work

because of the way it's structured,

he said, "I couldn't really hide.

"So I tried to do those things, and it really didn't work,

"and it kinda blew up in my face,

"and then I had to really address it

"because I knew I'd see that person for eight hours tomorrow

"and then eight hours the day after that."

And to your point, Michael,

it's this idea of this immersion

and having to really problem-solve

makes you have that moment of, oh, you know what,

someone did say that was important

but now I'm actually really feeling it myself

and taking some value from that.

So we would love to make sure we answer any questions

that may be remaining.

There's some contact information here.

Certainly, you can also follow up with Megan

if you can't get in touch with any of us,

but we would love to make sure we pause for questions.

- Yeah, and there are some great questions,

and I think you got to the bulk of those

that were presented in the chat.

I would like to hear more about any tools

that you are aware of

that can help measure these, quote-unquote, soft skills

and assess soft skills.

- Yes, so there are actually, and Michael, probably,

you're really well-equipped to do this too,

there's a great rapport around technology and hiring

and it breaks out the workflow around hiring

from sourcing to assessing,

and some of those technologies,

and I can share it out after,

I think it's through Talent Tech Labs

is the actual entity that puts it out.

But there's a bucket around assessment in that

and they do a range of cognitive,

non-cognitive types of assessment

to understand levels of competencies

such as resilience or self-efficacy, things like that.

There are a range of companies that do that.

Michael, you may have other examples

on the assessment space.

- Yeah, I do.

Just a couple that come to mind is

I would check out Ithaca did a really good report

about six to nine months ago.

Ithaca is our RI research.

It aches me every time I research where they spotlighted

a lot of the pre-assessments hiring tools that are,

in many cases, measuring soft skills

so I think that's a good place to get grounded,

and the pie metrics of the world and so forth

that have emerged in this space

to try to offer some of that.

The other thing Anh said much earlier, I think it's true,

which is a lot of these skills are still domain-specific

or at least field-specific,

maybe not specialization-specific,

but at least in the field.

Some of this is making sure you understand the context

in which you are asking the question.

I always like to say Myers-Briggs,

when you're asking in the context of your home life,

it's very different from your answers

when you ask about Myers-Briggs in your work life.

And sometimes, we've treated it as solid traits,

things that are actually more domain-dependent

than they might otherwise appear,

and some context matters, I think, for a lot of this.

It's clearly the case with grit and perseverance

and things of that nature

that the context in which you ask those questions

can dramatically change one's answers

depending on what their reference point is

when they go through some of these assessments.

So that's the other piece just to keep in mind

as you consider the set of assessments that are out there.

- Great, thank you.

Here's a question that came through from Monica.

Given that specializing too early

might put students at a disadvantage

in a rapidly-changing workplace,

has anyone considered offering a degree without a major,

one that teaches to the hard and soft competencies

that are adaptable for future work?

So I think we're starting

to see more and more of these bubble up.

What are you seeing, Michael and Anh?

- Yeah, I feel like I've seen,

and in conversation with a lot of institutions

about more self-designed majors

that aren't specific actually.

Sometimes, a self-design major is like, oh,

it's actually these three majors I want to do

so I'm just gonna call on something

so I can get through all three of them,

and it's really not.

I think that I was just talking to someone

at University of New Haven,

they're developing this emergent studies department

and students there are really more focused

on the skills that they wanna focus on,

and then they can design the projects they want around that.

So I think there's some space not within all institutions

but within some where there is less of a focus again

on the discipline and the the skills and projects

that will come out at the end.

Michael, anything to add there?

- Yeah, the only two quick things I'd add are:

Minerva, I think has done some very interesting work

in rethinking domains that people major in

and more making them rooted actually in many cases

in these soft skills or critical thinking, creativity,

and things like that,

and some having them as outgrowth of that.

And so, that might be one thing to check out.

I'm sorry for background noise.

The other piece that I think is interesting

is in my new book, I wrote about Wayfinding Academy

which has a degree in self and society

which is really about figuring out

who you are as a person

and what are your passions and interests.

So I think right now, in just a point thing,

we see a lot of experimentation.

My read on it is, again, going through different fields

is really important,

developing some technical domain expertise is important,

and being able to combine these things

and articulate them to employers.

And whatever the degree is called,

we're seeing experimentation there,

as long as it is combining intentionally

those different experiences, there's tremendous value.

- Right.

It's a great answer and great background there.

Our friend TJ, hi, TJ,

has a question in the question box

which is this overall approach seems very interesting

and potentially powerful,

what barriers to scale have you identified?

- Yeah, Mike, I'm gonna let you start here

'cause you've worked across more institutions

and programs than I have,

but then I can talk specifically

on the ones we've experienced.

- Oh, I was gonna say you know this way better.

(both laughing) But yeah,

I'll give a stab in it.

So I think we're seeing just institutions being aware

of faculty processes

and what are they trying to develop on-site

is the biggest one

of as you construct the department or a major,

it's often the sense

that we should offer all the courses in it

or we should have a huge computer science department

or things like that.

When I point it back,

it's got a lot of institutions,

it's very hard to have the breadth and depth that you need

to stand up these majors and fast-changing guilds,

and so, being able to work, I think, with outside entities

can sometimes feel difficult for institutions

but that's the biggest barrier that I frequently see.

I would say given the fact that you're working

with a regional accredited liberal arts institution,

a lot of the transfer concerns that you see in other domains

that have tried to mirror what Adjacent is doing

have been challenged more

when you're trying to transfer, say,

from a community college

to a regionally-accredited Tier One institution.

Less the case, at least in my experience,

when you're talking about a place like Davidson

or other dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment programs

that I have seen,

not just in this landscape but more generally.

Anh? - Yeah, I think that's fair.

I think from our perspective, how do I say this?

I think it is absolutely true

that when we work with students, we should have high rigor,

there's no question about that,

and some of the existing policies in place

are designed to protect that

and to make sure that is the case.

From a values perspective,

I would say we absolutely value that.

But I do think that sometimes,

some of the the policies, as Michael has said,

have gotten in the way

and they're just very institution-specific.

So to Michael's point about Davidson,

it's a very well-established, well-respected institution

and we work very, very closely with their faculty there

but there are some institutions

that don't take domestic study credit,

where they might take study abroad credit,

and we've worked with a number of even college presidents

who say we really want more study-away domestic programs

because not all of our students can go abroad,

but we have this policy in place

where we can't articulate that credit,

which is highly frustrating

but it is just something that exists

that we need to work through.

We run into that barrier when we think

about some of the institutional policies that exist

despite the feedback we get from students

which is extremely positive,

so when we launched Adjacent,

we've seen really strong interest from students,

and there are things that we need to do

to make it possible for them.

- Well, hopefully, with some changes to accreditation

from the Department of Ed,

there should be some more flexibility and adaptability,

so it'll be interesting to see.

And there's another question from Peter,

are there any Adjacent Academies planned for this summer?

So maybe talk more about how that model operates

and how institutions can partner with you, Anh.

- Sure!

So I'm happy to talk more offline

with people who are specifically interested in Adjacent.

We really wanted to focus on the research

and the students today.

But we operate study-away programs

both in the summer and during the semester.

So we're operating one in the spring right now

in San Francisco where it's a 16-week,

four-course semester away program,

and then in the summer,

we'll be operating likely two programs in San Francisco

where similarly, students will move away,

do an experience, gain the skills exposure,

and also the credit.

And then similarly going forward,

we are working with a set of partners

on other locations as well.

So the road map includes not just different locations

but different types of courses as well.

- Terrific!

Well, we have about four minutes left.

Are there any final thoughts you all wanna share?

One more question before you jump in on your final thought

is here's another question from the chat:

what is the work organization of Minerva being mentioned?

Michael, you had mentioned Minerva.

- Yeah, sure.

So Minerva is the first elite liberal arts college

created in the last hundred

or so years in the United States.

It's basically students rotate

among eight different campus sites

during their four-year experience.

They have a very intentional active learning platform

that they've developed so students are co-located

but learning online actually

in what's effectively the most tiring yet engaging seminar

you've ever seen in your entire life.

Full disclosure, I don't think I would have been cut out

for it in my college days.

There's a great book about its design

called "Building the Intentional University".

It peels back the layers

of all the things they thought about

to reinvent the liberal arts experience

in a very compelling way.

The last thing to just give you a sense

is the caliber of students they're accepting

is already an Ivy League set of caliber.

The selectivity, I think, is 2% or something like that.

It's an extremely selective school that's gotten its start

but I think it actually has a lot to teach

about how you might design a liberal arts

if you're doing it from scratch today.

- Terrific!

Okay, any final closing thoughts?

- Do you want me to jump in with one thought,

and then let you? - Go for it!

- Yeah, I would just say that this is a complicated space

and it's about as we talk

to a lot of different types of institutions,

I would say that there's already an awareness

about the opportunity.

It's not that institutions are hunkered down thinking,

oh, we need to protect the liberal arts

and it's this constrained space,

but there is an awareness

that there's value in the liberal arts

and that we need to support students

in being exposed to other opportunity,

and that it's really around

how do we make that more possible,

particularly for students

typically underrepresented in technology.

So we're thrilled to be working with institutions

who are excited about that opportunity

and supporting many students in doing that.

But again, it's complicated.

I wouldn't say that there's an easy

one-size-fits-all solution out there

and we appreciate that there are people

who are trying on as we share these four different ideas,

it's gonna take a little bit of everything

to get to the place where we can serve all students well.

- Terrific, thank you.

And I agree.

I think it's an exciting time to be in education

because even as slow as we evolve in higher ed,

there's a lot of really,

really interesting momentum and work

so I think that we're gonna see more

in terms of experiential learning

and to see a resurgence in interest

in liberal arts education.

So I wanna thank both of our presenters

and our fantastic student Alexandra.

I know that you're gonna do amazing things,

and we look forward to keeping tabs on you.

It's always wonderful to remind us

of why we're doing this work

and it's students like you

that help reinforce that we are in the right work

and that I shouldn't be a park ranger,

part-time or full-time.

(everyone laughs)

I wanna thank our WCET supporting members

and our wonderful sponsors

that help underwrite much of the programs

and events here we do at WCET.

So if this was your first WCET Webcast,

do get on our website, follow us on Twitter.

We have a fantastic blog

that our communications director updates

two to three times a week.

So we put out as much good information as we can

to help really move the field of higher education forward.

So thank you, all, for your wonderful questions

and your participation,

and we'll see you at the next WCET event.

Thank you, Anh, Alexandra, and Michael.

Take care.

- Thank you so much! - Thanks, Megan.

- Bye! - Bye!

The Description of Redefining Liberal Arts: The Future of Liberal Arts in a Hybrid World