United we stand; divided, we fall. No one can be passive.

You will be rewarded, if you read to this strange, but interesting sentence “This places a University between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place.” …

This email made my day, and provided a nice possible motto for our upcoming T Summit 2014

“United we stand; divided, we fall.  No one can be passive.”

….posted with permission (and of course, these are Geanie’s opinions not those of her employer, just as these blog posts are mine, and not those of my employer)

From Geanie Umberger, PhD, MSPH, RPh, Assistant Vice President for Research , Industry Research Program, Purdue University

Hi Jim,

Yes, that would be what we would want in an industry partnership with Purdue Polytechnic Institute: (1)  industry would provide real-world challenges, tools, data, coaches for the student projects, and (2) some of the best students get industry mentorship or internships or hired as employees.

As you know from your days in academia, most faculty desperately need industry partnerships in order to know about what the market needs are, how industry functions,  and other important touch-points that Industry monitors daily.

In addition to the complaints from the public on how a college degree costs too much and the strong pressure to quicken the pace to confer degrees, Universities have been hit from the other side by industry saying that we do not adequately prepare our students for the job market.

How can we cut-back on important knowledge to shorten graduation time, still teach critical thinking, plus provide a student with the opportunity that they “have what it takes” to complete a rigorous degree, and yet address industry’s valid concerns?  (The “what it takes” component seems to have evaporated from the buzz on education.)

This places a University between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place.

I see where the Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers one possible solution to this quandary, but the only way these types of programs can be successful is if companies also play a significant role.  It is more than just funding, but mentorships, internships, input on curriculum, and so forth.  Yes, Universities must change the way they educate (and conduct research, which is a whole separate topic) for the future.  However, in the words of one of our great forefathers, “United we stand; divided, we fall.”  This means that industry, the government, K-12 schools, parents, universities, AND the student all must play an active role.  No one can be passive.

Students cannot expect to be spoon-fed information they then spit back on an exam, and just because they were accepted to college does not guarantee they automatically get a degree and a great job.  Certain character-building components must be there as well.  Students who want an economical short experience have to be serious with their focus and not jump major-to-major. (A number of colleges have stats that show a student taking 5 to 6 years to graduate, how much of this is due to  jumping majors? I don’t know….how do we add internships and/or co-ops?)  We need to  devise effective programs that help students determine (1) if they want to even go to college; (2) give them viable options and assistance if they don’t; and (3) if they do go to college, help them zero in on the career to reduce the jumping around.  Once the student goes to college, we need to make sure certain skills (soft and hard) are provided to the students and industry and the university collaborate.  Students who want to jump around and explore, must understand there are very real economic and time costs.  Perhaps the jumping around and exploring more paths actually creates a student that is better rounded, and better T-shaped boundary spanner – but it comes at a big cost in the current university structures, and impacts measures the public watches carefully – cost to degree, time to degree.

To be totally honest, I am unaware if any robust programs like I am thinking of which might address this gap to discern careers, etc.    To my limited knowledge, no one has devised a way to address this gap.  The conversation is buzzing around the area, but not landed on that specific topic just yet.

I could go on, but I think I have bored you enough so it is time for me to jump off my soapbox and put it away.

Please let me know if you would like to talk further about the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and thanks for reading this far.

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