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IU Northwest News

Meeting the expectations of the Knowledge Economy

One Region Editorial by William J. Lowe, Chancellor

Thursday Aug 20, 2015

The economic prosperity and future success of our nation, and of Northwest Indiana, is dependent upon our intellectual capital.

Colleges and universities, locally and nationally, play a significant role in educating members of society and creating communities dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.

Now, more than ever, due to the complexities and competitiveness of an interdependent, globalized marketplace, colleges and universities must prepare their students for the expectations of the Knowledge Economy, an economic environment rich in intelligence, information and innovation.

The vast majority of today’s employers value a college degree, and a student’s “soft” interpersonal and thinking skills, broad-based education and real-world experiences that are cultivated through their college programs.

A 2015 national survey of business and nonprofit leaders by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) found 91 percent of employers believe that, for career success, a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex, unscripted problems is more important than a particular undergraduate major.

Employers agreed that broad learning should be an expected part of course work for all students, regardless of their chosen major. And, they were nearly unanimous (96 percent) in agreeing that all students should gain experience in problem solving with individuals who hold contrasting viewpoints, a skill acquired through liberal arts courses.

Applying textbook knowledge to the real-world through applied learning, such as internships, senior projects and community engagement, is also highly valued, and in many cases expected, by nearly all employers.

Surveys, like those commissioned by the AAC&U, provide colleges and universities critical insight into the competitive employment landscape, as they work to develop strong curricula and educational practices that best prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s leaders and active citizens.

As the region’s university, Indiana University Northwest takes seriously our role in building and advancing our communities through the intellectual capital of our nearly 29,000 IU Northwest alumni, three-quarters whom keep their talent local.

Our graduates are often prepared for lifelong learning, ethical practices, successful careers in the Knowledge Economy, and effective citizenship through the professional development programs of the Office of Career Services, and other offices dedicated to career planning.

However, it is up to the entire campus community to envision the career-focused, broad-based education that extends beyond the classroom and is expected by employers.

IU Northwest’s commitment to community-based engagement amplifies our students’ academic experiences by connecting them with the needs of their communities. Nearly one-third of our students contribute more than 125,000 service learning hours annually to Northwest Indiana.

These opportunities provide our students the types of experiences employers value, while connecting IU Northwest students with local businesses and organizations.

Like many other regional campuses, it is imperative that we offer real-world learning opportunities that fit our students’ often complex lives. In fact, up to 90 percent of IU Northwest students work while earning their degrees, making it difficult to accept traditional internships.

Recognizing the value of hands-on learning, the IU Northwest Board of Advisors recently commissioned a student survey to gain insight on how all types of experiential learning opportunities could be more attractive and accessible to our students. The results revealed that two-thirds of students would accept an internship if their current employer offered them the opportunity.

Finding innovative solutions to meet the professional expectations of today’s employers can be a challenge. But with this challenge comes great opportunity, as the benefits are greater than one student or one business, but compounded, further strengthening our regional quality of life and economic resilience.

It is the role of all colleges and universities to enable Northwest Indiana’s students to learn and practice the liberal skills, professional knowledge and perspectives that create the foundation for a fulfilling life and career, so that all students have the opportunity to take their place as active citizens and community leaders in our One Region

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