Paul Jarley's Blog: What is College For?

I am hosting my second tweetup of the semester on November 19. It is one of the ways I try to connect with students, understand their aspirations and get feedback on the UCF experience. You can sign up by clicking (here). This tweetup will focus on building a unique culture for the college: one that will help develop a distinctive set of qualities on our graduates that advantage Knights in their careers and life.

But before you attend the tweetup, I’m asking that you watch this video from Seth Godin (above).

Seth is talking about primary and secondary education and how it was designed to ensure that we had a sufficient number of workers for our industrial society. I like this video for a variety of reasons, but the most relevant point for the tweetup is that it shows how a culture was purposefully created that fostered certain qualities in people, qualities the economy of the time demanded and valued (e.g., respect, conformity).

Seth goes on to note that we are no longer an industrial society. That today, the American economy has a different set of drivers. So, he rightly asks in today’s world: “What is school for?” It is an excellent question. I doubt he means that we should stop teaching math or science or English. I also doubt that he thinks we should stop trying to create well-disciplined minds capable of solving complex problems. What he is really asking is: what set of characteristics should school foster in today’s students? Once we understand that, we can create physical spaces, design learning experiences, develop rituals, and extol role models that will help create a culture that supports our goals.

In searching for a unique culture for our college, I am essentially asking “What is college for?” Like Seth, I’m not asking whether or not we should teach students about net present value or the four Ps of marketing. I am asking: what qualities do we want to instill in our students? Which ones are most important to their success in life and which of these qualities do we choose to emphasize in building a distinctive brand for the college?

Let’s talk.

Paul Jarley, Ph.D., is the dean of the UCF College of Business Administration. He blogs every week at http://www.bus.ucf.edu/dean. This post appeared on November 5, 2012. Follow him on Twitter @pauljarley.