Industry Outlook: Higher Education

August 9, 2013

HOWELL: Our USTAR researchers, a lot of their doctoral and post-doctoral students are not students from Utah or even students from the United States. There really is a good opportunity for this state to focus on STEM and to get some of these students, showing them that this is a pathway that they can be in and that there’s an opportunity there and there’s exciting things going on. So I don’t think that there’s an overemphasis in STEM. I think we need to show more students that this is an option for them and that they can do it.      

KEY: Westminster is a liberal arts college, so I don’t think I have to talk about our position on humanities. But we have a brand-new science center and we’re enrolling many females into the sciences, which has been incredible. But some of the publicity and press in the higher ed arena about STEM is such that parents start to devalue the humanities and the liberal arts degrees and try to push students into those places.

Carol made a great comment about how you can have a balance and have a liberal arts core and have a science degree at the same time. But I do see some undervaluing of the humanities pieces, “the degrees to nowhere,” and what are you going to do at the end of the day. They are saying, “You are not employable unless you have one of these degrees now,” and it’s just not true.      

MADSEN: I would go back and remind people that getting a job and being employable is an important thing. But there’s also so many other reasons for getting college degrees. If you are not going to work, some think there’s no reason to get a degree when, in reality, it helps you to be a better parent and citizen.      

How can you as educators and business leaders ensure that our future workforce can compete both nationally and internationally?

GOETZ: We need to work more collaboratively and collectively. Resources are limited; often STEM-based degrees and programs are expensive, they are very capital intensive in some ways if you put the hands-on work into it. So we have to work together more effectively.

If you look at successful STEM initiatives in other states, they rally around their resources. They rally together to work more collaboratively. That’s really the secret to success. We have a lot of great things going on in this state, but often we do them in our silos. It goes back to bringing the silos down and saying, “What are you guys doing up there and how can we work together.”        

HENRIE: Salt Lake Community College works to help our students think more globally rather than locally, because our community really is a global kind of community. We have the most diverse student population. We have several different languages spoken on our campus by our students. So we’re building that into the curriculum, looking at curriculum beyond the Western notion of curriculum, looking at how to globalize and internationalize the curriculum.

SCHARMAN: We are in a unique environment at BYU where about 70 percent of our students speak a second language. But that emphasis on valuing other cultures and trying to understand things from a different perspective, learning the language, learning how people from other parts of the world do things, and trying to get that understanding, trying to take the good from what other people have—it’s an important part of the educational experience of our students.      

BAYLE: We work with a junior high school in South Salt Lake, and we had the principal at our board meeting last week and he was sharing with us that the kids in his junior high are from 90 different countries and they speak 36 different languages. Rather than looking at those kids as a drain on our society, we need to embrace them and work with them to integrate them into our culture, but also value what they bring to us as well.

GOETZ: I’d like to add to that and shift the perspective a little bit. It’s a value proposition when it comes to education, right? We have to put our business hats on, as educators, and ask ourselves how do we educate and communicate to the people who affect and impact the funding of education in our state?

We have a big challenge ahead of us to educate our legislators on the value of not only what we do in higher education, but in K-12. Often they don’t understand how research and innovation in our institutions impacts our economy. Go sit in an education committee meeting up there and then you will walk out and say, “Wow, we really need to do some work up on the Hill to educate our legislators on the return on the investment of what we do in our institutions.”

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