Making College Relevant

The New York Times has a great article regarding how colleges and universities are adjusting their curriculums in response to the changing market conditions. Not unusual since through out history, college curriculums have adjusted to the needs of society, particularly employers. However, there seems to be a difference this time around given the budget cuts faced by many academic institutions. College Liberal Arts budgets are vulnerable to the increased need in technology, science, and business. However, there is a danger to taking from Peter to pay Paul. The article addresses this concern:

There’s evidence, though, that employers also don’t want students specializing too soon. The Association of American Colleges and Universities recently asked employers who hire at least 25 percent of their workforce from two- or four-year colleges what they want institutions to teach. The answers did not suggest a narrow focus. Instead, 89 percent said they wanted more emphasis on “the ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing,” 81 percent asked for better “critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills” and 70 percent were looking for “the ability to innovate and be creative.”

There is always a need to recognize that individuals are responsible for shaping the world through creativity. Ideas are created which in turn shape who we are and what as a society we create – especially in economic times like these. Complex and uncertain organizational environments in which managers function demands understanding complexity and uncertainty and much of this type of thinking lies within Liberal Arts. It requires the basic ability to communicate and create relationships – a skill employers say recent graduates are sorely lacking. Since an essential responsibility of a leader is to take action in the absence of standard operating procedures, critical thinking and good decision making requires intuition and the skill of subjective judgment – the cornerstones of a Liberal Arts curriculum.