Putting the “T” in Spartan

05-12-2014

Another commencement has graced our campus, with nearly 7,000 new Michigan State University graduates acknowledged this month. Most will embark on their careers. Some will pursue further education. All will join a worldwide network more than half a million strong.

I’m confident that Michigan State has prepared these graduates for success by providing an exceptional educational foundation. The fact that many of the world’s top employers look to MSU for talent is testament to that.

I’ve had the opportunity to talk at several business forums across the country in recent weeks about the kinds of skills graduates need today to succeed and how we at MSU are helping to develop them.

One instance was a Forbes discussion panel in Chicago focused on reinventing education. I talked about how MSU is working more closely than ever with employers. While learning by doing has long been part of the MSU student experience, we’re placing more emphasis on internships and on-campus programs that feature real-world problem solving, often in collaboration with employers. And we’re encouraging more students to pursue high-impact experiences such as undergraduate research, study abroad, entrepreneurship, and service-learning.

That discussion led me to mention how we are developing graduates with T-shaped skills, the focus of a program dubbed T-Summit 2014 that MSU cosponsored with IBM in San Jose, California.

Information technology companies were among the first to talk about the sort of talent needed to thrive in today’s workplaces in terms of the shape of the letter “T.” Think of it this way: Graduates must be deeply knowledgeable in their specialty area and have acquired the kind of analytical thinking and problem solving skills that go with that kind of learning—traditional university-taught skills represented by the vertical bar of the letter T. But graduates today also need boundary-crossing capacity to be able to compete in a world in which collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, global awareness, and an appreciation of diversity are essential—the skills represented by the crossbar of the T.

The high-impact, experiential learning opportunities I mentioned are ways to develop such attributes, and MSU now is working with greater intention to more fully integrate them into the undergraduate experience. Classrooms, too, could become more fluid, collaborative, and technologically advanced to support such learning. As we progress, we will regularly assess how students learn through these new environments and programs to fine tune opportunities and experiences to fully prepare tomorrow’s professionals.

Michigan State continues to evolve its programs to reflect a changing world, much as graduates continue to advance and adapt their learning long after they are awarded their diplomas. Each of us is on a journey of discovery, and I congratulate our spring graduates and wish them the greatest success and fulfillment on the paths they choose.

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