I’ve written before about employer comments on Georgetown graduates (Hacking Georgetown-Provided Skills). Their comments resemble those of some Georgetown parents. The common theme is that Georgetown excels at providing its graduates with strong critical thinking and writing abilities; the graduates are well-schooled in the key theories and research in their areas of concentration. They lack, in the opinion of these folks, some skills that a 21st century leader in any organization often exercises. They ask, properly enough, whether Georgetown can’t start supplying their students these skills.
In completely independent events, it appears that similar messages are heard when law and medical school deans seek feedback on their curricula and when faculty discuss desired attributes of new PhD programs. We hear messages that our curricula should assure that the basic skills necessary for modern work organizations be part of the student experience.
Last year, the law center offered a seminar on financial literacy for its students, taught by faculty at the business school. Last year, and again this year, a voluntary noncredit class in coding, under the rubric of GU Women Who Code, attracted hundreds of women students to pick up computer coding skills. The Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation has designed a course called Creating Transformative Change: How business, government and civil society can work together appealing to students interested in acquiring a variety of problem-solving skills.
As part of the Designing the Future(s) program, students over the summer worked with faculty to tag courses, beginning to indicate what skills are obtained by taking the courses. Once matured and vetted, this will be a core database that students can use to guide their course selections.
Further, from the Red House educational incubator that we built as part of Designing the Future(s), a proposal is emerging for a new menu of courses, unaffiliated with any one school, open to undergraduates and graduate students. These UNIV courses might be credit-bearing or noncredit courses. They would be modularized to offer compact, exercise-based pedagogy, designed to teach specific skills in a large set of domains.
They can include design thinking skills, web-page analytics, balance sheet construction, project management, oral communication forms (the debate, the negotiation, the “pitch,” the autobiographical introduction, etc.), and conflict transformation. More examples of cross-cutting courses include crisis mapping, grant writing, and advocacy techniques. Further, the menu of skills courses may involve courses available freely online that provide rigorous skills-development, where the role of Georgetown may be providing assessment of absorption of the skills.
We seek to build courses with certification features, which document the student’s acquisition of the skills at the time of the course. We seek to have transcripts and micro-credentials that reflect their successful completion of these courses. We envision a time when students view these as an essential part of the Georgetown experience, preparing them to be effective members in work organizations in all sectors of society. We don’t see these as subtracting from any academic content of current curricula; instead, these are additional educational services that Georgetown will offer a student a valuable and integrated supplement to their academic education.
We need wide input on this initiative. We plan to have an academic and senior staff advisory group to oversee the menu of skills courses. We’ll seek reactions of faculty, staff, and students in a variety of ways over the coming weeks.