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+ ACI Hosts Business and College Leaders for Discussions on Workplace Preparation
+ ACI’s Fall Conference Draws More Than 150 People for Learning, Networking

ACI Hosts Business and College Leaders for Discussions on Workplace Preparation
Nov. 12, 2019

Table discussions focused on student preparation and employer needs.

Illinois business leaders and college and university leaders met Nov. 7 in Chicago for a round of discussions on how higher education institutions and employers can work together to prepare students for successful careers. ACI hosted the groups, which included about 30 attendees, at its annual Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion Leaders Breakfast at the University Club of Chicago.

Leaders attending the breakfast meeting proposed forming an alliance of business and college leaders in Illinois to work on student career preparation, similar to an alliance in Maryland and Virginia of college and tech industry leaders. “Our shared goal is to better prepare students for the workplace,” said Dr. Gregor Thuswaldner, who is spearheading the initiative. Thuswaldner is dean of arts and sciences and professor of humanities at North Park University, Chicago.

President Mary K. Surridge of North Park University told the attendees that despite challenges in higher education – a declining student population, questions about the value of a college degree and affordability – ACI members can depend on each other. “We can depend and stand on the worthy legacies and missions of our institutions, even as we create a spirit of innovation and an atmosphere of inspiration,” she said.

College is a “temporary” time period for students, she said. “It’s a very significant time. But our job is to prepare them to leave us in a way that is strong, in a way that is deepened and experienced, but also inspired – inspired to step out into their communities and into their work lives and professions, and contribute,” Surridge said.

Micke Weltman, ACI executive director, welcomed North Park University President Mary K. Surridge, left, and Renee Tucker Martinez, right, career education specialist at North Park, to the breakfast meeting.

Renee Tucker Martinez, career education specialist at North Park, said faculty and staff at the university and other colleges and universities in Illinois have discussed a strategy-partnership idea with business leaders from a host of fields to help students be ready for the workplace.

Breakfast participants engaged in table discussions. Among the ideas that emerged for further consideration were an emphasis on communication and interviewing skills, being agile and responding to change, problem solving, and lifelong learning. It was also suggested that faculty reach out to businesses for ongoing conversation and inviting business and colleges to form partnerships to develop curriculum.

ACI’s Fall Conference Draws More Than 150 People for Learning, Networking
Nov. 12, 2019

Dr. S. Georgia Nugent, interim president, Illinois Wesleyan University, spoke about the enduring value of the liberal arts.

Member college and university staff attending ACI’s Fall Conference heard a strong case for broad-based liberal arts education and learned helpful skills and ideas in a series of professional development sessions. The conference focused on staff working in advancement, finance, marketing and public relations, and student engagement roles.

Held Nov. 1, in Lisle, Illinois, the conference drew 152 attendees from 24 of ACI’s 26 member colleges and universities. “We were pleased to host so many professionals from ACI member institutions,” said Constance Willoughby, ACI director of conferences and scholarships. “This conference is focused on providing meaningful learning, tailored to staff working in independent, private liberal arts colleges and universities that make up our membership.” A new round of professional development conferences is planned for June 2020.

More than 150 people attended the conference, which featured several professional development sessions.

In her opening remarks, Dr. S. Georgia Nugent, interim president at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, and senior fellow at the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Washington, D.C., pointed out that liberal arts education has endured for centuries and will endure into the future. Liberal arts, she said, means “gaining the skills to live life fully as a free individual.” She pointed out that liberal arts has always included sciences, and Nugent cited a number of studies that debunk suggestions that English, philosophy or psychology majors, for example, are unemployable. In fact, she said, studies consistently show that over time, liberal arts majors do well and advance in their careers.

“Broad-based liberal arts learning seems to me more practical than ever, when we know that our graduates will not just change jobs, but change careers multiple times in their lives,” Nugent said. “The marriage of rigorous liberal arts study with the possibility of professional training is the gold standard for future success.”

Liberal arts institutions have demonstrated creativity and change, Nugent said, citing a CIC study of innovation she did involving 500 leaders from more than 100 institutions. Liberal arts institutions are reaching out to new students, including transfers, veterans, international students and adult learners. New programs are being initiated, such as in cybersecurity and data analytics. Plus, students are provided internships, externships, alumni mentors and experiential learning.

“We are changing our pedagogies, so that the ‘learner’ is more of a ‘doer’ – and therefore better prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s world,” Nugent added.

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