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by Faith Breen, Professor, Business Management

"A frog placed in hot water will immediately jump out; but, if the frog is placed into cold water that is slowly heated up, the frog will allow itself to be cooked alive."

I believe faculty need to take a pro-active approach to change so that we begin the process of preparing our students for the rapid changes they will experience. This is not hypothetical. A recent article in the Washington Post, titled "‘A New Kind of Workforce’ Emerges," makes the point that jobs in America are being restructured. The globalization of the economy now makes it possible for employers to contract out manufacturing as well as knowledge-based jobs to countries such as Russia, China, and India. In fact, the article gives an example of an employer who:

. . . recently hired a man in Ukraine to design a computer system to monitor sales results . . . paid him $118, much less than the $1,000, he figures he would have paid a freelance American programmer.

Because education is also about jobs, giving our students the ability to pro-actively confront the changing job market is an issue of academic integrity. We need to look beyond getting our students through our courses, through their programs, and earning their degrees. We need to work more closely with the Career Center to ensure that our students are being prepared for a career that will be there when they enter the market. And, if their chosen career becomes obsolete, we should ensure that they will have (1) the educational skills; (2) market savvy; and, (3) confidence to make multiple career changes. For example:

  • Educational Excellence: With regard to providing high quality education, faculty may wish to work with Imogene Zachery. Over the years she has provided students with tailored Internet research and information literacy skills. Also, we may wish to consider developing more multidisciplinary courses. A recent article in The Washington Post titled "Doc, Taken to Art" highlights the advantages of multi-disciplinary academic programs. According to this article, researchers found that medical students who had taken an art course were better able to identify medical disorders than medical students who had not. As a result of this finding and my own Title III research, I have integrated more multi-sensory experiences, including works of art, into my management courses.
  • Market Savvy: At the college, I have found the Career Center is our window to the changing face of the American job market. Over the years, the Career Center has tailored presentations for my management classes. More importantly, they have provided students with assessment exams, career orientations, and access to internships, job vacancies, and talented career counselors such as Jessie Alexander, Sue Baczynski, Carmetta Bouchard, John Kelly, Randy Poole, and Paul Van Cleef.
  • Self-Confidence: The recent New York Times article titled "In Fighting Stereotypes, Students Lift Test Scores," makes the point that:

Girls and low-income minority students are more likely to improve their scores on standardized tests when they are taught ways to overcome the pressures associated with negative stereotypes. . . . The findings suggest that if minority and low-income students receive positive messages about their ability to learn and succeed academically, they are less likely to conform to stereotypes they believe others have of the – poor reading ability in the case of minority students and inferior math skills in the case of girls – when taking standardized tests.

Perhaps we can use this finding to prepare our students for change by giving them positive messages that encourage them to see change as an opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and achieve their full potential. In other words, get rid of the paradigm that they need to see maturity as "settling down." Perhaps we need to send the message that maturity is recognizing change is inevitable, it is rapid, and only the gazelles survive.

To help our students embrace change, faculty may wish to begin by showing Joel Barker’s video, "The New Business of Paradigms."1 This short video offers interesting and insightful examples of what can happen when people or organizations resist change. Faculty may also wish to draw upon the experiences of the speakers who have participated in "The Millennium Management Lecture Series."2 All of these speakers have experienced changes, recognized the opportunities, and achieved their goals. As successful executives, they offer our students concrete evidence of the benefits of embracing change.

1 This 2001 video runs 44 minutes and is available in our college library.
2 The Millennium Management Lecture Series Web site can be accessed from the college’s Instruction Homepage. Speakers include Mr. John Dawkins, III, the first African-American franchiser of McDonalds; Ms. Janie Jeffers, Former Deputy Executive Director under President Clinton; Mr. Joel Szabat, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation; and Dr. Susan Gooden, Director of Race and Social Policy Research at Virginia Technological University.


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 19, No. 2

Spring 2004