How to Study for Jobs of the Future?

NPR: “Eighty-five percent of the jobs that today’s students will do in 2030 don’t exist yet, the Institute for the Future has predicted. That might seem like a high number to reach in only 12 years. But think about the now-mainstream careers that did not exist just a handful of years ago: drone operator, social media manager, app developer and cloud computing engineer, among others … Even if that 85 percent is ultimately smaller, the number begs an important question about how the workforce is preparing for the future, starting in the classroom. What role should colleges and universities play in preparing students for a workplace that is constantly changing?”

“At the University of Utah, the new Degree Plus program seeks to fill the job skills gap. It offers eight-week courses intended as an add-on to a student’s main degree. The courses include data analysis, web design and digital marketing, all taught by industry professionals … The model is similar to ‘badge’ programs, which aim to give students a certificate showing they know a skill that employers might find useful.”

“The University of California, Berkeley, is another school that is trying to foster student-driven pursuits, which may not have a traditional, professional outlet. Students there can design their own courses, such as ‘Blockchain Fundamentals’ and ‘Impact of AI,’ a class that explores ‘various economic, social, and ethical challenges facing AI’ … In addition to allowing students to study subjects not taught in a standard university class, the DeCal, short for Democratic Education at Cal, program is designed to foster creativity–a skill that could be valuable in any job market.”


Grade Inflation: Putting the ‘Grit’ Back in GPA

Mitch Daniels: “In many cases, the GPA proves to be a reliable indicator of discipline, persistence and resilience — characteristics necessary to succeed at the college level (to say nothing of adult life). In the current vernacular, these traits are often collectively called ‘grit.’ Enrollment experts agree on its significance. The problem is in knowing when a high GPA reflects it and when it doesn’t. The challenge for today’s college admissions officer is like the one faced by corporate recruiters: In an era of rampant grade inflation, which grades can you believe?”

“Last year, researchers reported that nearly half of high school seniors in 2016 — 47 percent — graduated with an A average. That’s up from 38.9 percent in 1998. As ordinary students increasingly ‘earn’ higher marks, teachers help top students stand out by granting them extra credit of various kinds. The result: It is now not unusual for colleges to see high-school GPAs above a ‘perfect’ 4.0 … It is increasingly clear that, though a strong high-school GPA may indicate grit, it can also just be a sign of lax grading — producing not resilience but its opposite.”

“Of course, one easy solution for colleges is just to go with the grade-inflation flow, and obviously many institutions of higher education have chosen that route. Places determined instead to stretch and challenge students, aiming to help them achieve their full potential, will have to take on the trickier task of identifying and fostering true grit, providing quality counseling everywhere it’s needed … Meanwhile, let’s hope the College Board comes up with a new GPA — Grit Potential Assessment. I guarantee you, our university will be the first customer.” (Mitch Daniels is President of Purdue University)


Hello, Iowa: The Original Cornell

Cornell Daily Sun: “When Martin Rosenfeld was still a high school senior, his college application list included an Ivy League school in Ithaca. A few months later, he got into Cornell and decided to go there. But when he left for school in August of his freshman year, he headed for Iowa, not New York. Rosenfeld intended to apply to Cornell University, as he did to schools like Vanderbilt and Brown. However, during the highly stressful process, he accidentally applied to Cornell College, which is in Mount Vernon, Iowa. He ended up going there and he has no regrets about it.”

“Cornell College is a small, liberal arts school in Mount Vernon, Iowa. The school has an enrollment of about 1,000 undergrads. Although not as well-known as Cornell University, they proclaim themselves the original Cornell since they were founded 12 years before the University … What greatly intrigued Rosenfeld about Cornell College, however, was its curriculum design — ‘the block plan.’ At Cornell College, students take one course at a time and intensively study it for 18 class days – about three and a half weeks – and repeat it four times per semester.”

“Foregoing his acceptance to Vanderbilt, Rosenfeld instead headed to Mount Vernon, a decision that has caused confusion amongst those around him. Martin says that he faced multiple ‘outbursts’ from his peers in high school about why he decided to go to “some small, liberal arts college that practically nobody has ever heard of. His family, despite being supportive, also had a hard time wrapping their heads around this move. But according to Rosenfeld, attending Cornell College was the best decision he ever made.”


Northeastern Acquires Global Presence

The Wall Street Journal: “Northeastern University, a onetime blue-collar commuter school in Boston, is continuing a yearslong international expansion with the purchase of a small, private college in central London. The acquisition of The New College of the Humanities, a six-year-old private college with about 200 students, underscores the growing pressures and incentives for universities to globalize their business model in an era of rising competition, shifting demographics and increasing nationalism.”

“Universities around the world have been establishing branch campuses at an accelerating clip for several years. The Northeastern purchase is unusual in that instead of building a branch, the university is acquiring a school that is already established, accomplishing overnight what typically takes several years.”

“Just a handful of U.S. schools—mostly for-profits—have bought schools in other countries. Generally, schools that are seeking to expand globally choose to build a branch campus. In 2000, there were about 50 international branch campuses built by universities from around the world. There are now more than 250 … Northeastern has been aggressively opening campuses in the U.S. and Canada for several years. It now has campuses open or under construction in Seattle, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Charlotte, Vancouver and Toronto. The school has plans to expand to Asia.”


MIT Launches Billion-Dollar AI Intitiative

The Verge: “MIT has announced a $1 billion initiative to … establish a new college of computing to train the next generation of machine learning mavens.Importantly, the college isn’t just about training AI skills. Instead, it will focus on what MIT president L. Rafael Reif calls ‘the bilinguals of the future.’ By that, he means students in fields like biology, chemistry, physics, politics, history, and linguistics who also know how to apply machine learning to these disciplines.”

“MIT is also angling the college as an ethically minded enterprise; one of its stated aims is to research ‘ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.’ It’s a frequent criticism of contemporary AI efforts that researchers sometimes ignore the history and lessons of the fields they are trying to ‘disrupt’.”


Elon: Professor Squire & Online Insights

Elon: “Explaining how she works with data to identify trends, relationships and networks, Professor of Computer Science Megan Squire turned to a heap of Legos — disconnected and colorful, and seemingly without order. Sharing what she said was her “favorite graphic,” she explained that data science is the process of taking that pile of Legos, sorting them by color, arranging them so they make sense, and then presenting them in single-color stacks that allow you to hear what the data is trying to tell you.”

“The stories Squire told through her research have offered insight into the nature of the communications and connections among online communities, with recent work to demonstrate the overlapping memberships of groups such as neo-Nazis, white nationalists, anti-immigration and other extremists … Squire explained that an early project centered on humor — how computer programmers joked with each other as they interacted online.”

“In examining that data, Squire kept seeing the use of the phrase ‘Aunt Tillie,’ which she discovered had become widely used a phrase used by software developers for ‘an old lady who doesn’t know how to use their computer.’ That led her to begin examining how some language in these online communications was used to mock women and also racial minorities. It was a first step into exploring toxicity in online interactions.”


Brandeis: A Culture of Exploration

Brandeis: “Whenever the entrepreneurial spirit arises in Brandeis students and faculty, it often leads to something big: companies that promise to both reap significant financial rewards and transform society … Research by professor emeritus of biology K.C. Hayes and biophysicist Daniel Perlman resulted in the ‘healthy fats’ used in Smart Balance spread. Adam Cheyer ’88 co-founded the company Siri, which developed the digital personal assistant now on hundreds of millions of iPhones around the world.”

“Today, there’s a new crop of startups out there, some still in their infancy, others marketing products and making profits. Though known for their commitment to social justice and altruism, Brandeisians exhibit no shortage of business daring or acumen. ‘Brandeis supports a culture of exploration,’ says Rebecca Menapace, associate provost for innovation.”

Among the Brandeis Startups: “Werk has developed a methodology for helping companies assess the need and desire for flexibility among employees. The consulting firm then suggests policies to implement. It has also developed a training program for human resources executives and others, and runs a job board that helps employees looking for flexible workplaces search for opportunities … Raised $4 million. Featured in The New York Times and Fast Company, and on CNBC.”


University of Delaware: Students Pitch Toy Ideas

University of Delaware: “Engineering students at the University of Delaware recently pitched their own inventions to representatives from a major toy company. A trio of professionals from Melissa and Doug, a toymaker with revenue of more than $350 million per year, visited UD to evaluate toy prototypes made by mechanical engineering students with help from early childhood education students. Companies like Melissa and Doug employ mechanical engineers because they have foundations in product design, mechanics, dynamics and other skills that are useful when making tiny consumer products.”

“The students made toys that were functional, fun and educational, like the Carpet Circuit, which was designed to teach the basics of circuitry … The team created a mat that can be laid on a classroom floor or hung from a chalkboard. The mat is covered with detachable pieces — held on with Velcro — that illustrate the basics of electronics. For example, you can connect a battery-shaped piece to a lightbulb-shaped piece using a rope that represents a wire.”

“Another toy, the Farmyard Friends Puzzle, a 12-piece 3D pig-shaped puzzle, was designed to increase literacy by helping children recognize letters while also developing fine motor skills. Each piece of the wooden puzzle features uppercase and lowercase letters. The team is also interested in making a prototype out of 3D printed polymer. The representatives from Melissa and Doug asked the Farmyard Friends Puzzle team a lot of questions — and asked for more information after the showcase.”


Grade Inflation: Summa Cum Saturated?

The Wall Street Journal: “Nearly half of students who graduated from Lehigh University, Princeton University and the University of Southern California this year did so with cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors, or their equivalents. At Harvard and Johns Hopkins, more got the designations than didn’t … Honors designations have become close to the norm at many top schools, according to a Wall Street Journal review of the criteria for earning honors and the percentage of the senior class that got the designation at schools in the top 50 of the WSJ/Times Higher Education ranking.”

“Most elite schools cap the share of the graduating class that can receive academic honors. But the caps vary widely, from 25% at Columbia University to up to 60% at Harvard.Harvard’s number hit 91% in 2001, as highlighted at the time in a Boston Globe article about generous honors policies. Soon after, the school revised its selection process. Northwestern University expanded its pool of eligible seniors to 25% from 16% in 2010, citing concern that students were losing out on graduate-school admissions because they were competing against peers at more magnanimous colleges. Now, the top 5% of the class graduates summa cum laude, the next 8% magna and the next 12% cum laude.”

“Anna Del Castillo said she was ‘filled with pride and joy,’ on learning that she would graduate from Tufts University magna cum laude. At the ceremony in May, the 22-year-old international relations major says, she was surprised by just how many other names were followed by Latin designations—not to mention three levels of thesis honors” … Rather than diminish her own achievement, Ms. Del Castillo said her immediate response during the ceremony was, ‘Wow, I go to school with brilliant people’.”