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By Robert Atkins, Chief Executive Officer, Gray Associates, Inc.

A labor shortage in science and technology-based fields has led U.S. institutions of higher learning to put greater emphasis on their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs. In some instances, institutions are emphasizing STEM at the expense of their liberal arts programs. This is shortsighted.

While solid technical skills are a must for students looking for careers in high-paying, specialized fields such as health care and technology, they aren't likely to lead to good jobs by themselves. Increasingly, employers are also demanding that candidates have strong business and office "soft skills."

A foundation in the liberal arts helps job seekers acquire these skills and can give them an edge. Schools that produce well-rounded candidates are likely to have higher placement rates, which, in turn, will help them attract more - and better-prepared - students.

For example, the primary work activities that fit best with jobs in computer science are "design data processing systems," "write computer programs or code," and "design data security systems." These work activities are all technical.

But, when speaking with potential employers about the skills gap for computer science grads, they cite weak soft skills as the main reason a candidacy is discontinued. An employer who hires 1,400 computer science grads annually stated that candidates and schools tend to "brush the soft skills aside in pursuit of technical skills...candidates need more of the good old liberal arts."

Our consulting work focuses on helping colleges and universities evaluate their portfolio of academic programs to make decisions about which programs to Start, Stop, Sustain or Grow. Having helped dozens of institutions go through this process, we have found that the most successful schools are those that can provide the right mix of technical and soft skills training.

Even as colleges start and grow technical and career programs, they need to sustain their portfolios of liberal arts and communications courses. Technical training needs to be augmented with a foundation in the liberal arts as well as courses that develop the skills needed for success in the workplace.

Job placement rates influence enrollment. That is why successful schools highlight them on their home pages. They know that if their students are hired soon after graduation for good jobs in fields they have studied, they will attract more - and better qualified - applicants and improve their yield rate (percentage of admitted students who enroll).

Therefore, institutional leaders and faculty need to take a holistic approach to assessing their program and course offerings. A class in philosophy, for example, a program with few majors, could help students develop analytical and critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the physical sciences, engineering or mathematics.

Before applying, prospective students, their parents and guidance counselors should research what skills the student will develop as well as what programs the school offers. They should make sure the school provides adequate preparation in the soft skills in addition to solid technical training. Together, these fields of study make the student more marketable and better prepared to get ahead in the workforce. #

Gray Associates, Inc. (www.grayassociates.com) is a higher education consulting firm.  We help clients develop fact-based institutional and marketing strategies to maximize outcomes for students, the school, and its constituencies.  Gray uses proprietary analytical techniques and an industry-leading database combining information on inquiry volumes, demographics, competition, and employment, to help faculty and school leadership develop institutional strategies, select programs, pick locations, and prepare curricula.


By Stephen Spahn, Chancellor of Dwight School

I recently had the opportunity to stand center stage in the iconic Stern Auditorium where Tchaikovsky raised his baton to conduct Carnegie Hall's inaugural concert in 1891. The occasion was Dwight Schools' 2018 global concert, bringing together 340 performers from around the world.

While Dwight students have performed in Carnegie Hall for nearly two decades, this was the first time they took to the grand Perelman Stage. The majestic 2,800-seat venue hosted the largest sold-out audience of parents, faculty, staff, and alumni in Dwight's 146-year history. It was a magical event that brought our global community together, which as Chancellor celebrating my 50th year in education, was especially gratifying.

Spark of genius is an interest or passion that is unique to every student -- whatever captures the heart, head, or hand. It is our job as educators to work individually with students to tap into what excites them, opening the door to all other learning. I have dedicated my career to igniting that spark in every student and to utilizing those talents and interests to create a personalized roadmap to a meaningful future for each one. It remains my calling and mission to this day.  

I have also dedicated myself and Dwight, as a frontier IB school, to bridging boundaries and preparing students to be global leaders who can make our world a better place. That is why the cross-campus collaboration and months of extensive preparation for the concert are equally as meaningful to me as the evening itself. It takes a global village.

Last fall, students on every campus auditioned locally and our team of music directors shared audition tapes to select soloists, duettists, and ensembles for an evening's program that ran the gamut from classical, jazz, and pop to traditional Korean and Chinese music, showcasing the unique cultural contributions from each Dwight campus. After several months of preparation at their home schools, all the performers come together in New York for an intensive week-long rehearsal period during which they fine-tuned and blended their individual pieces into one glorious tapestry.

During this immersive experience, students connected with their peers from different continents, embraced each other's cultural traditions, and forged friendships that will last a lifetime, underscoring the benefits of being part of a global family of schools.

When the performers walked into Stern Auditorium on their big night, it brought back a flood of memories -- countless moments when I have been in awe of the talent, gifts, and unique sparks of genius of countless Dwight students over the years. Ultimately, my greatest legacy will be all the students who become heroes of their own journey. My story will be the collection of all of their stories -- my symphony will be the collection of all of their symphonies. #

huntergates.jpg(L-R) Bill Gates, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab, Lin-Manuel Miranda, & Melinda Gates

By Lydia Liebman

Recently, Hunter College hosted an exciting and informative Q&A with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and philanthropist power couple Bill and Melinda Gates. The lively discussion was held at the Kaye Theater at Hunter with a full house of excited students present. Hunter College president Jennifer Raab gave a glowing introduction to the event stating that their work aligns with Hunter's goals. "We believe as you do, Bill and Melinda, that society can level the playing field through education," said Raab. Miranda, a Hunter High School graduate, asked Bill and Melinda an array of questions from Hunter College students, audience members, those watching live on Facebook and even Mark Zuckerberg. Throughout the wide-ranging interview, the Gates' answered questions that ranged from personal to policy.

In the early part of the program, Ms. Gates spoke of the importance of education. She said: "...when you get a good education in the United States, it changes the trajectory of your life. We want to make sure students in this country have a chance." The Gates' focus much of their philanthropic efforts around education. They currently contribute over a half a billion dollars to this cause yearly.

In addition to their work bettering education, the Gates' are passionate about improving global health. When asked what advice he could offer to a future entrepreneur, Mr. Gates stressed the importance and necessity of innovation in science and programming. "We need better tools to cure these diseases," he said, adding that with the rising cost of healthcare, the only solution is innovation. Other questions were more specific; Ms. Gates was asked how to promote sound birth control choices in Africa without being seen as a second-wave colonialist. In her answer, Ms. Gates explained the importance of educating women about their body and choices in cultural and local contexts. She explained that the Gates Foundation works only with local partners in these communities.

Other questions focused on the future of technology. "What do you think will happen to human civilization with further development in Artifical Intelligence technology?" asked Miranda, on behalf of one of the audience members. "AI will bring us immense productivity," Gates responded before elaborating that AI will help fill in the gaps in industries that are experiencing worker shortages.

Perhaps one of the greatest surprises was a question from Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. By way of a Facebook live stream, Zuckerberg asked Mr. Gates: "if you could go back and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?" Mr. Gates said, "...know that it takes many skill sets on a team to solve some problems. Smartness alone doesn't solve everything."

Bill and Melinda Gates spoke at length about the Trump administration and did not hold back their criticism of the president's proposed budget that slashes foreign aid. Mr. Gates pointed out that the biggest increase in global aid was during another Republican administration; that of President George W. Bush. Now, following a steady increase of global aid during the Obama administation, this kind of aid is, in the words of Mr. Gates, under attack. He went on to explain that even a ten percent cut would mean 5 million deaths over the next decade. Current spending for global aid is less than one percent of the entire US budget. "It makes absolutely no sense to us," said Ms. Gates of the cuts. She went on to say that stability in Africa is indeed an essential part of the America First ideology; the lowered risk of a health crisis is beneficial for Americans (and all people of the world).

The dynamic conversation at Hunter College came on the heels of the release of the Bill and Melinda Gates Annual Letter. In their tenth annual letter, the Gates' answered ten questions that relate to their philanthropic work and ideology.#

The 2018 Annual Letter can be read here: gatesnotes.com/2018-Annual-Letter.

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