In the outcome and employment oriented world of today just how does a University steeped in the liberal arts teaching traditions survive? Southwest Minnesota State University is an institution that believes every student who leaves with a degree must adhere to the core mission of teaching students to:
Critically think, Communicate, think outside the box to solve problems, understand about how individuals and societies interact and where the student fits within these interactions, appreciate the differences and similarities of peoples across the globe, be civically engaged in one's community, understand the physical and social nature of our universe, and to have a continuing thirst of knowledge.
Students whether in the traditional liberal arts core disciplines or in professional programs complete a forty two credit liberal education core culminated with a capstone course within their major. So how does this student get a job? How do they make it in the "real world?"
Our political structure thinks in terms of jobs, profits, and economic growth. The business world thinks in terms of profits and loss, growth, creativity, and productivity not necessarily in any order because without the last three items the first cannot occur unless you are buying and then breaking up an existing business through a fire sale.
The University concentrates on teaching the student how to make sure the last three concepts of growth, creativity and productivity take place. The University teaches the student how to adapt and move forward.
As we moved through the last part of the twentieth century we still saw the mass majority of workers stay in one job or two jobs for their entire life. In the twenty-first century we see a reworking of how work takes place. The worker today can expect to change jobs many more times than what were seen in the previous fifty or one hundred years.
The changing of jobs today is made more complex by the need to adapt to new skill sets, new environments, new locations, new technology, etc. As we progress through the article we begin to see how the University steeped in the traditional liberal arts education alongside of professional training is becoming the strength of our society.
But if you are from the show me state the question is prove it! Well, within the Minnesota State College and University system (MnSCU) each institution is required to do a graduate follow-up study. In this study the Universities ask such questions as:
Are you employed and where?
Are you employed in your field or related field?
Are you continuing your education at this time?
When one looks at SMSU's 2010 Annual report of the 2010 graduating class there is some very interesting supportive evidence that surfaces. First and foremost the University return rate on the survey was 90 percent which in and of itself is impressive. Graduates who stated they were available for related employment reported that they were in field or related field at the 90.6 percent level, only 7.7 percent stated they were employed but seeking related field and the most impressive result was that only 1.7 percent stated they were still looking. These numbers were at a time when we were still in the midst of a serious recession!
One other interesting note from the graduate follow-up study was that 79 percent of the graduates working were employed in Minnesota. Looking back over the last five years the numbers have not changed significantly. The 2010 percentage in related field employment is the second highest during this period.
So how does Southwest Minnesota State University survive in an outcome and employment oriented world today? The numbers tell the story that our Liberal Arts Tradition mixed with professional training prepares students to survive and thrive in the new 21st Century work model.
This means our region and the state employers have individuals that are creative, increase productivity, generate growth and thus ultimately profits!