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Preparing for an EVER-CHANGING FUTURE

Rachel Kipp

Saint Joseph's Magazine Cover Summer 2020 with Hawk and Philly skyline in the background

 

In rapidly changing times, little about the future is certain. For Saint Joseph’s students on the cusp of entering the working world, it means the only way to be prepared for everything is to be prepared for anything.

The future is being shaped by globalization, technological innovation and demographic change – and this is particularly true of work. With the future more uncertain than ever, as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, society as a whole has been forced to recalibrate its worldview and rethink definitions of success.

Many of these macro trends are unnerving because like our current reality, there are so many unknowns. According to human resources consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, more than 60% of the students in today’s classrooms will one day have a career that does not yet exist.

Even for those that enter established professions, change and flexibility will be the name of the game: A 2018 report from LinkedIn found that workers under age 24 already averaged four or more jobs in their short time in the workforce and that they were three times more likely to change jobs than Baby Boomers.

The future is full of challenges. But on Hawk Hill, challenges are met with renewal, progress and innovation and a belief that even in an uncertain future, the University’s hallmark liberal arts education isn’t just a “nice to have” – it’s critical.

 

 

LEAD students Damaris Gimenez ’23 (left) and Daniella Campos ’23 (right) at a lecture by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in October 2019.

LEAD students Damaris Gimenez ’23 (left) and Daniella Campos ’23 (right) at a lecture by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in October 2019.

“Like St. Ignatius, we are not afraid of uncertainty and walking boldly into the future,” Ronald Dufresne, Ph.D., associate professor of management and director of the Leadership, Ethics and Organizational Sustainability Program, said in 2019. “Our foundation is in the liberal arts, and our professional schools are built on this liberal arts foundation. Our accounting graduates who have studied philosophy and our food marketers who have studied history are better prepared for the challenges they’ll face at work.”

‘It’s All About to Change’

The world is starting to take notice of the value of such students. A 2018 article by the World Economic Forum noted that three of the top skills needed to survive automation are creativity, complex problem solving and critical thinking. Other skills mentioned included people management, coordinating with others, decision-making, negotiation and serving others.

In a post COVID-19 world, more than ever, Trish Shafer, director of Saint Joseph’s Career Development Center, expects to see a shift in what companies desire from future workers.

“They will focus more on competencies – how can job candidates stretch themselves to continue to bring value, are they consistently learning something new and are they able to adapt to the circumstances around them,” she says. “A strong economy allowed job seekers to be lazy: Now it’s all about to change.”

And while many roles, particularly in science and technology, require highly specialized knowledge, companies are also realizing that for other jobs, it’s more critical to hire well-rounded candidates who know how to work on teams, consider the ethical implications of decision making and to push for innovations and policies that don’t leave behind traditionally underserved populations.

“Going forward, I know that my patients aren’t just their symptoms, they’re so much more than that,” Bridget Cichon ’20 said when reflecting recently on her time at Saint Joseph’s. Cichon plans to begin medical school at Thomas Jefferson University this fall, the first student admitted as part of a new partnership aimed at filling a critical gap in physicians trained to work with and provide care for patients on the autism spectrum.

The future of work is not about filling a job description. It’s about seeing what needs to be done and figuring out how to do it — it’s a meeting of the old world and the new world. We want our students to be leaders but in a way that takes all of what it means to be a human into account."

James Caccamo, Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Students and Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Theology

Cichon has logged more than 2,000 hours working with clients of Saint Joseph’s nationally recognized Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. She joined the Center’s SCHOLARS (Students Committed to Helping Others Learn about Autism Research and Support) program early in her undergraduate career and ended up adding a second major (in addition to biology) in autism behavioral studies.

“The type of experience that I’ve gotten at SJU just isn’t offered on other campuses,” Cichon said. “I really got to delve into what it was like to work with other people, the autism population in particular.”

A Changing World

Increased neurodiversity is just one of the reasons that the workforce that Generation Z encounters will be markedly different from what their parents and grandparents experienced. Gen Z is the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse generation ever, with 48% identifying as being from communities of color, according to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center.

This generation came of age in a time when a Black president and the legalization of gay marriage was the norm. According to a 2018 Barnes & Noble College Insights study, 86% of members of Generation Z think it’s important to question, and sometimes challenge, the status quo. The same study found that 91% believe everyone is equal and should be treated that way, and that diversity and inclusion issues were more salient for the Gen Z respondents than they were for any previous generation.

But these students are also attending college at a time when higher education as a whole is still defining what diversity means and how to intentionally create an environment on campus where students from all groups feel they belong.

According to a 2019 report by the American Council on Education, the percentage of undergraduate students of color on college campuses has grown from around 30% in 1996 to 45% today, and the percentage of graduate students increased from 20% to 32% over the same period. While the report found progress in attaining access to higher education across many communities of color, it also found stagnant and lower levels of completion.

The stakes for change are high. According to a 2018 study by McKinsey, companies with diverse executive teams are 33% more productive than less diverse peers. Another 2018 study by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with diverse workforces are more profitable and innovative, and research is mounting a case for the benefits of neurodiversity in a variety of industries.

Time and Trust-Building

At Saint Joseph’s, the goal is to graduate students who become the changemakers from within no matter what their future path. Like the other college campuses across the country, Hawk Hill is becoming increasingly diverse: Among students, 16.8% of the Class of 2019 identified as students of color; that increased to 20.4% for the Class of 2023. PELL-eligible students increased from 11.8% to 13.1% over the same time period.

Our world needs agile thinkers with a broad base of knowledge from which to question, analyze, and respond more thoughtfully to an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world.”

Shaily Menon, Ph.D.

Dean of The College of Arts and Sciences

The Saint Joseph’s community recognizes that students benefit from learning from peers whose experiences are different from their own; from recognizing the role that inequality has played in society, and how a person’s gender, race, class, sexual orientation and religion, among other factors, can impact the opportunities available to them. The community is striving to provide inclusive experiences that lead to graduates who are ready to live and succeed in a diverse society.

Recently, orientation for all freshmen has included participating in FACTUALITY, an interactive board game where players encounter barriers or benefits based on their unique intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. Upperclassmen, faculty, staff and administrators, and the Board of Trustees have also participated in FACTUALITY training. Safe Zone Trainings, aimed at creating allies to the LGBTQIA+ members of the campus community, have been offered to faculty, staff and students since 2001. More than 500 people have been trained.

On June 4, hundreds of Saint Joseph’s students marched through campus to protest the death of Floyd and continued violence against the Black community in the U.S.

"I wanted people to feel like they were a part of something bigger than themselves, coming together to walk in solidarity to the racial and social injustices happening around the world to black people, but importantly the killing of George Floyd," said Aliyah Stokes ’20, recent criminal justice alumna and organizer of the march.

Beginning this fall, a new concentration in diversity, equity and inclusion is being launched for students in the criminal justice graduate major and Organization, Development and Leadership M.S. program.

“We want to use this concentration to allow graduates to understand the foundational knowledge they need and also the best research within this area, but also to be able to move forward and use them to change their organizations,” says Aubrey Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of educational leadership.

“Everything is changing right now, and we need to adjust everything we do so we can have important conversations not only about race, but also about gender and sexuality,” says Encarna Rodríguez, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of educational leadership. “Part of what this concentration is going to do is on a conceptual level, teach students the connection between power and identity and how it plays out within organizations.”

 

Saint Joseph's University James Caccamo, Ph.D., associate dean for students and experiential learning and associate professor of theology

James Caccamo, Ph.D., associate dean for students and experiential learning and associate professor of theology, says Saint Joseph’s graduates are well prepared to step into the working world and succeed, no matter where they start out.

In addition, an interdisciplinary minor is being explored that would focus on training neurotypical managers, in HR and beyond, who can promote inclusion and put policies in place to support neurodiverse workers.

“The goal should be to have people who are neurodiverse to engage fully in competitive, real jobs where their talents are going to be used to the fullest,” Eric Patton, Ph.D., chair and professor of management, said earlier this year. “That takes deliberate steps on the part of organizations to make sure their typical practices are not shutting the door on day one.”

Launched last fall, the new Law Exploration Advancing Diversity (LEAD) program connects students of color who are interested in legal careers with career advising, networking opportunities and resources to navigate the law school application process. The program is a response to some sobering statistics: While many U.S. law schools have increased their minority enrollment in recent years, those numbers aren’t reflected in the legal field as a whole. Law360’s 2019 Diversity Snapshot report found that only 20% of attorneys and just 9% of partners at surveyed law firms identified as men and women of color.

LEAD, a partnership between the Center for Inclusion and Diversity and the Pre-Law program, initiated by Susan Liebell, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, also provides a space where students of color can build relationships and support each other.

“Students of color need and desire to know they’re not alone and not standing by themselves,” Natalie Walker Brown, M.S., director for inclusion and diversity educational achievement, said of the program. “Anything that allows students with even the smallest inkling that they might want to go to law school to say, ‘Huh, there are people who may be coming from a similar background, speaking the same language, having the same personal challenges and successes and we’re all working toward the same goal,’ helps to create a community across the board.”

Daniella Campos ’23, an international relations major, said she and the other students in LEAD have made it a priority to share information about outreach programs or internship opportunities with the entire group so if one isn’t able to do it, the others have a chance to apply.

“We keep each other in the loop,” she says. “Instead of just one person succeeding everyone is successful as a whole.”

Critical Dialogue

In late February, hundreds of Saint Joseph’s students, faculty and staff attended sessions on intersectionality, language and allyship as part of the Day of Dialogue, a grassroots effort by the campus community to move toward a shared vision for diversity and agile solutions to addressing complex problems around inclusivity that impact interactions both inside and outside the classroom.

“Today really is intended to be great conversations, the beginning for us to lean in and really talk about what diversity, equity and inclusion work means at our University, and how we see this work continuing,” Nicole Stokes, Ph.D., who joined Saint Joseph’s this year as the new associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, said in an interview during the event. “Cultural change takes time, it takes trust building, it takes everybody to be committed to the process. So patience is part of that process, but we are moving quickly.”

Taken together, these experiences are intended to create shared meaning and understanding for the community as a whole; build intercultural and global competence, which is essential in the modern workforce; and provide career-readiness training and exposure to help diverse students break into industries that have historically lacked diversity.

A Two-Way Street

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the globe, so did troubling videos of college spring breakers filling coastal beaches and loudly declaring indifference to the threat of infecting themselves and then spreading the disease to their home communities.

But Sally Kuykendall, Ph.D., professor of health services, had a different experience when she began checking in with students in her classes who were preparing to resume the spring semester virtually. There was the student who decided to remain in Philadelphia so as not to risk infecting her mother. And the student who took a 26-hour flight to get home and, due to the time change, was now taking Kuykendall’s class at 2 a.m.

“Across our undergraduate and graduate programs, students gain the knowledge and experience they need to earn industry-recognized credentials — but also the communication skills, global competency and ethical decision-making ability to be strong leaders.”

Jopseph A. DiAngelo, Ed.D. ’70

Dean of The Erivan K. Haub Schol of Business

"They [were] not out partying on boats or at the beach. Many have stories to tell about why they are practicing physical distancing and the loved ones they are protecting,” Kuykendall said in March.

More than ever, the pandemic has emphasized the interconnectedness of the world, and how adaptability, and taking a global view of any problem, will be critical in the future.

“Servant leadership begins with perspective-taking,” Dufresne said this spring. “Serving others’ well-being and their growth needs requires knowing each person as an individual and thoughtfully tailoring one’s approach toward them. This doesn’t require mind-reading; servant leaders have open, candid conversations with others about how they’re doing and how they can best be supported.”

Throughout the spring semester, many of the students in Saint Joseph’s health care administration classes were balancing their course loads with working on the front lines of combating the disease. Despite the personal upheaval of moving off campus and restarting classes online, other students found time to paint Hearts of Hope for first responders and to provide tax prep help to underserved parts of the Philadelphia and Lower Merion communities.

“One of the best aspects of the VITA program is that it really is a two-way street,” Chelsea Covaleskie ’22 said of the tax prep program, a national effort that Saint Joseph’s accounting students have participated in for the last 25 years. Instead of discontinuing this year after the move online, she and the other students found a way to do it via phone, acknowledging that the community they serve may not have easy access to the internet or have deep tech skills. “Not only do people in the community benefit from the tax services, but we as students get a chance to give back while also honing valuable skills that will make us better at our future jobs.”

A Greater Calling

In January, when news was just starting to break about a new virus in China, climate change took center stage at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together government leaders, academics and entrepreneurs to discuss the key issues, risks and challenges facing the world in the coming years.

Key to the United Nations’ efforts to track and encourage those efforts are its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which focus on issues including eradicating poverty and hunger, creating sustainable communities, and achieving clean water and sanitation and affordable and clean energy, and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

Among the experts talking about the SDGs at Davos was Associate Management Professor David Steingard, Ph.D. As part of a panel on the role of the SDGs in higher education, Steingard discussed a data analytics tool, the SDG Dashboard, which he and colleagues at Saint Joseph’s developed to measure institutional progress toward the SDGs. 

Beginning next fall, the SDGs will take a more visible role in the curriculum at the Erivan K. Haub School of Business, with plans to focus on one or two a year as a thematic thread that runs through courses, lectures and special events. Haub Associate Dean Vana Zervanos, Ed.D., says the SDGs reflect the multi-layered real-world challenges students will encounter once they leave Saint Joseph’s.

In implementing the effort, she says leadership also discussed how they could ensure it was an authentic experience rather than a branding exercise.

“Oftentimes money equals power and if you have a voice and if you are so fortunate that you can use business to also do good and better impact society, that absolutely needs to be our ultimate goal,” Zervanos says. “One without the other for me just lacks for a greater calling and I think it’s our obligation, especially during times like these.”

Focusing on Skills

In short, with its emphasis on lasting intentional relationships, agility, innovation and global mindedness, never before has a Jesuit education been more relevant. It’s also part of why Saint Joseph’s students and others at Jesuit colleges “cross between majors better than anyone else,” Daniel Joyce, S.J. ’88, executive director of mission programs, said during a recent roundtable discussion.

Whether it is addressing poverty, health disparities, or structural inequity in education systems, our students are committed to seeking inter-professional solutions to complex problems.”

Angela McDonald, Ph.D.

Dean of The School of Health Studies and Education

In the Class of 2019, 65% earned a double major or minor. Joyce noted that Saint Joseph’s students often have unusual combinations of majors and minors – computer science with performing arts or accounting and autism behavioral studies. That doesn’t happen by accident, he added, signaling a certain degree of faculty guidance.

“Jesuits are big on recognizing your emotions — they shouldn’t lead you, but should direct you where you are going, to help you with the ethical decisions that you need to make,” says Adam Mullin ’20, outgoing president of the Student Senate. “Even as a workplace changes, if you’re coming from a place of genuine care and empathy and meeting people where they are, you’ll be successful.”

Shafer of the Career Development Center says her office encourages students not to pigeonhole themselves into a particular position or industry, but to instead consider the whole person when choosing a career path or job after graduation.

“Students want to align with their values,” Shafer says. “We tell people don’t focus on the job title, focus on the description and skills. It’s not ‘I’m looking for a job in X,’ but ‘I have skills in XYZ and I’m looking to apply them in an environment that aligns with my values.’ This opens way more doors in good and bad economies.”

Creating an Environment for Students to Thrive

Earlier this year, after receiving a new project from her boss at software company SAP, Anna-Maria Berezovski ’21 got so excited that she immediately sent an e-mail to the professor who taught her software engineering class. A week earlier, the class had talked about running agile projects, which focus on using short development cycles called “sprints” to focus on continuous improvement of a product.

“The next week, I had a call for a new project at work and they wanted to run it as an agile project,” Berezovski wrote recently. A computer science and Asian studies double major, Berezovski worked full-time for SAP during the summer of 2019 as part of a pilot of a new co-op program in the College of Arts and Sciences. She continued to work there part-time during the school year.

“I love applying concepts I have learned in class to what I do at work,” Berezovski wrote. “It is also inspiring when I walk into the classroom and learn about a concept or topic that I have encountered at work because I can see how what we learn at Saint Joseph’s really does extend beyond our time here on campus.”

It’s the type of experience that the College of Arts and Sciences is looking to expand with the initiative, building on the success of the existing program in the Haub School of Business. More than 90% of Haub co-op students reported that the experience made them more competitive in the job market.

Co-ops, service learning and other experiences that allow students to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings are among the reasons that business executives and hiring managers continue to place a high degree of value on a liberal arts education, according to a 2019 survey of about 1,000 business executives and hiring managers conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Sixty-three percent of those surveyed said they have “a lot” or “a great deal” of confidence in American higher education. The executives and hiring managers emphasized the importance of students with effective oral and written communication skills and students who could work effectively on teams. Across the board, they also said that project-based learning of any kind gave students an edge in the hiring process.

Allowing students to tap into all aspects of a growing industry was among the goals of building a cross-disciplinary program in esports, including renovating a classroom in Merion Hall to serve as a state-of-the-art esports lab. Beginning this fall, a course will launch focused on the billion-dollar industry, which is built around organized gaming competitions open to both amateurs and professionals, and has seen a surge in participation in the current age of social distancing. 

Challenging Perceptions of the World

Though they seem very different on the surface, at its core, the esports effort shares many of the same objectives as courses like “Just Health Care in Developing Nations,” which examines health care access in Philadelphia and Latin America. Chief among them: A desire to give students meaningful experiences that will help define what’s important to them as they shape their futures.

Katherine Battaglia ’21, an interdisciplinary health services major, was part of the Just Health Care class, which spent 10 days traveling in Costa Rica to learn about the country’s health system and nonprofit organizations, as well as the lived experiences of migrants and refugees from other parts of Latin America.

“This class challenged the way I thought, how I acted, and how I perceived the world around me,” Battaglia ’21, said after the trip.

“As someone who tends to be rather shy, it forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to speak with confidence, manage and work with a team of other students, defend my answers, and most of all how to be a great advocate and leader.”

More than anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the leaders of tomorrow must know how to do more than meet a bottom line. Gallup polls of average Americans and health care workers conducted at the height of the initial U.S. outbreak in April showed growing frustrations with leaders who couldn’t communicate, didn’t appear to have a clear plan, and didn’t seem to care much about their employees’ well-being.

In those respects, Saint Joseph’s graduates are well prepared to step in and succeed, no matter where they start out, says James Caccamo, Ph.D., associate dean for students and experiential learning and associate professor of theology.

“The future of work is not about filling a job description,” he says. “It’s about seeing what needs to be done and figuring out how to do it — it’s a meeting of the old world and the new world. We want our students to be leaders but in a way that takes all of what it means to be a human into account.”

Rachel Kipp is editorial director. Colleen Sabatino ’11 (M.A.), director of marketing, contributed to this article.

 

 

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