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Isman ’15: The future of education

Opinions Columnist
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Higher education — including the types of institutions, varieties of advanced degrees and selection of available courses — must adapt to meet the needs of our rapidly changing world. As a senior, I recognize that students need to be ready to enter a transforming workforce, where new fields are constantly created and old career paths are in decline. We need to place greater focus on interdisciplinary programs that challenge both educators and students to think creatively about how to utilize modern technology to prepare the next generation of professionals.

First, we should put more funding and academic recognition into institutions innovating advanced degree programs to incorporate a collaboration of fields of study into one singular degree. One example of this type of new approach to teaching is Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based company that “provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator” to help individuals and businesses take advantage of new technology, including biotechnology, neuroscience and nanotechnology, according to the university’s website.

As the Guardian reported, “Singularity University is an institution that has been made in the valley’s own image: highly networked, fuelled by a cocktail of philanthro-capitalism and endowed with an almost mystical sense of its own destiny.” The company’s business model emphasizes an education that is malleable to its surroundings and brings together intellectuals and entrepreneurs to address some of the most pressing problems of today, including energy shortages, environmental change, education and public health. 

Master’s programs — and even postgraduate certificate programs — need to move away from overspecializing toward bringing together different minds to teach multifaceted ways of thinking. Chances are that the person getting an MBA will not find the same solutions to problems as those doing a master’s in the sciences. As the problems we face become more complicated and unique, those educated in problem solving — through a variety of means — will be our lifeline.

The future is in programs like these because a growing number of jobs require you to think beyond one set of skills. Education needs to aim to create the innovators and leaders of tomorrow — thinkers who will be able to lead companies and projects because they will be well versed in problem solving. These leaders will succeed because their skillsets will be varied and because they will be able to draw from a variety of sources to create solutions that evolve to meet new problems.

Granted, many of the people who attend Singularity University are already well educated and have specialized degrees. Some have doctoral degrees, and others are CEOs or entrepreneurs. Yet despite having degrees and success, these innovators desire to attend Singularity University, proving that the demand for interdisciplinary and innovative programs is widespread.

Though at Brown we receive an education that gives us the chance to combine courses based on our personal interests and to create an individualized set of skills, there are not that many instances where concentrations work together to encourage a more adaptable, comprehensive approach to the world that awaits us.

It is of course necessary to develop foundational knowledge in several disciplines. But aside from a few entrepreneurship classes, Brown does not provide many opportunities for students to create new things or innovate older ones.

As a humanities student, I realize that most of the more creative classes are higher-level computer science or engineering courses. I wonder if, as a Literary Arts concentrator, I could have something new to bring to the table and could also learn new skills from my peers. I wish Brown offered more courses focused on collaborative thinking rather than merely emphasizing that humanities concentrators can take science classes and vice versa.

The future of education lies in programs similar to those of Singularity University because it develops forward thinkers. The institution’s interdisciplinary nature helps produce leaders who know how to solve problems by allowing students to develop the tools needed for that task. Higher education should embrace the breadth and intersections of knowledge, not push students to specialize in one discipline.

Sami Isman ’15 wishes to solve problems that don’t exist yet.


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  1. i remember when this used to be a place for cool teens to hang out. now it’s all dweebs

  2. Ursine Bedapond says:

    You are too wordy, fellow. I am sure Literary Arts does not encourage bovine defecation. It must be some habit shared throughout some region.

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