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Working With or Working Against?

The opening of this piece should first state, there isn't a right answer to this piece's title. It is only a tale of ideals vs. realities and going against the grain vs. compromise.

On Friday I met with the dean of my alma mater's business school, Truman State University. As I have probably stated before online and definitely in public, I am in conflict with the university system. When I graduated from school, I was met by a world I felt completely unprepared for. I had memorized a bunch of vocabulary, had discussed a few case studies and not had much interaction with the real world. Many of my professors were career teachers rather than professionals with a host of work experience. Memorization took priority over application. Concepts ruled over skills. While my experience may have been unique, I doubt it.

While I am content with where life has taken me thus far, I am not sure how much of that I should attribute to college. I can say without question that living on my own pushed me to grow up in ways that I hadn't encountered before. Many of my classes and conversations expanded my mind. But I am not sure that my degree sent me into the world as a qualified candidate for employment. I certainly own up to part of that blame. I did not pursue internships actively even though they were mentioned. I would challenge that they were not pushed with great urgency but opportunities were available and I opted out.

When my work life began to take shape, I then had time to ask, "Why did it take so long for me to find a place to start?" Again, there is no correct front door or first step but why did I feel so lost? I've harbored that sentiment for a while.

A couple years ago, the university's development department reached out to me and we started having conversations about my getting back involved with the school. I wasn't sure where I stood. If I had a kid today, would I send them off to college or push them to obtain some online degrees, apprenticeships or internships and just tackle the world head on? I am a staunch advocate for life-long-learning but does the university system deliver that?

I still don't have the answer to that question but I'll now come full circle to the breakfast I had on Friday. As I was sitting there with the dean, not sure where I stood and we began to discuss opportunities, she spoke about delighting in the chance to give students varied experiences. She saw it as valuable for them to hear from working professionals. The chance to attend networking sessions and learn first-hand how to begin building relationships. This struck a cord. She spoke of an upcoming event in the spring to do just that with students in their sophomore and junior year or school. I accepted the invitation to participate.

When it comes down to it, we each have choices to make. The current world's political climate forces us to ask, "when should we stand in complete opposition to something and when should we work to compromise? When should we be the loyal opposition vs. find a middle ground?" I cannot say I've found the right solution on the educational front but found participating rather than opposing valuable at this juncture.

I could support a Peter Thiel style initiative getting kids to forego or drop out of college or help fund massively disruptive technologies. But what about all the students currently in school? Should I leave them as a casualty of an antiquated approach or aim to get involved? Do I turn my back on traditional education or try and help steer it froward? In this case, I have found an answer.

Today's world is ripe with fractious discussion and people firmly entrenched in their beliefs. Dare to ask yourself when you are in struggle if this is a moment to firmly oppose something or to work with it.

Go Forth Boldly


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