May 9, 2017: It’s no secret or surprise that the workplace of today is vastly different than it was a very few years ago. The impact of corporate downsizing since the ‘90’s, the lightening fast impact of technology on business behavior, resourcing, employment practices, employee skill set requirements, uncertain economic times and the integration of changing demographic and cultural values have resulted in a working environment hardly recognizable to those whose preparation and expectations were set in the 20th Century. How to provide a new educational paradigm that addresses the needs of the 21st Century workforce is the mission of Tuesday’s speaker, Dr. Godfry Gibbison, Dean of the School of Professional Studies at the College of Charleston.
Dean Gibbison, who has a background addressing big challenges with different, “against the grain” partnerships that bring people together for the “right reasons,” began his talk by recognizing that many of today’s higher education students do not fit the traditional profile of an 18-22 year old straight out of high school. Today’s students are often those who began college but for a variety of reasons left school. Now, later in life, how, and where, do they complete their educations and get that all-important degree with relevant and marketable skills? To address the needs of this growing student demographic, Dr. Gibbison began the School of Professional Studies.
The School of Professional Studies is premised around 21st Century competencies necessary for success in today’s workplace. These competencies focus on the need for critical thinking, 1) employing scientific and quantitative methodologies while 2) using a global perspective that 3) addresses problem solving through a cultural lens. Additionally, learning to be comfortable with the constant technological change impacting both professional and personal life is a focus of the curriculum for students in the school whose average age is 38. These students, who almost always have the time and financial demands of current employment and families, need flexible hours, creative financial assistance and course offerings that meet their requirements.
At the School of Professional Studies, students from 21-70 demonstrate that age is no longer a predictor of learning patterns. Students of all ages and backgrounds can now use technology and on-line coursework to study at all times of day and year. For today’s student, convenience and cost are the determinative factors—not the university marquee of yesterday. Students will attend the schools that provide them with the information they need, in formats and during hours that fit their schedules and at costs they can afford.
The School of Professional Studies at the College of Charleston addresses these critical needs of the “post-traditional” student through programs that carefully analyze prior coursework—which is often from another college or university—for application or transfer towards a Bachelor’s degree, by offering courses available all hours of the day and night through on-line and convenient locations, and through creative ways to recognize value and skills that have been attained through workplace experience that may substitute for basic courses. All of this can reduce financial burdens by reducing the number of courses needed to graduate. Importantly, the School of Professional Studies also seeks partnerships with current or prospective employers to help with the cost of a returning student’s tuition and other expenses.
A Bachelor of Professional Studies degree may be in Applied Communication, Hospitality Management, Healthcare Management, Organizational Leadership and Management and in Project Management. Additionally, the School offers seminars and special short courses to help current or returning students learn 21st Century terminology and specialized skills like Infographics.
In a workplace and an economy that is dynamic and unpredictable, the School of Professional Studies offers an opportunity for students of any age with partial degree completion to continue and graduate–or to simply update skills for increased employment value and opportunity. Dr. Gibbison‘s excellent presentation provided important insight for our Rotary Club into the changing world of higher education and probably left more than one Rotarian thinking about what courses might enhance their own 21st Century skills.
— Cheryl Kaynard, Keyway Committee