Campus News

Speaker: Greater rigor needed to prepare students for future careers

With advances in computer intelligence technology, it’s time for higher learning educators to think about how to prepare their students for the future, said Thomas C. Reeves during the 2016 Founders Day Lecture on Jan. 27.

“Researchers are focused on creating systems that can perform numerous tasks that were previously reserved for humans,” said Reeves, professor emeritus of learning, design and technology in UGA’s College of Education.

These researchers are engineering robots that can see, understand, listen, speak, read, write and make judgments. As outstanding as this technology is, it also could have repercussions for human labor.

“Most of us have become comfortable with machines taking over manufacturing jobs, but we have not begun to grapple with what machine learning means for the professions,” he said, noting that technology is being developed that could replace tasks performed by pharmacists, physicians, accountants, lawyers, journalists and others.

For future workers, seeking new skills and acquiring more education may not be enough, at least not if higher education doesn’t address some concerns.

Grit, or the resolve to see something through, is a strong predictor of success, said Reeves, who suggested that universities should focus on greater rigor—more reading and more writing—to better prepare students for a rapidly changing career landscape.

“I call upon our university leaders—our faculty, our staff, our students—to critically examine what we’re doing here at the University of Georgia,” he said. “Our programs and our courses can’t assume that secure careers await our graduates. That world is coming to an end. Instead, universities have to prepare our graduates to survive in a rapidly changing world, one in which people with the lifelong careers of today may only be seen in museum exhibits.”

Brian Heredia, a second-year history and social studies education major from Athens, delivered the student response. Regardless of whether computer technologies wipe out certain professions, he said, there should be a greater focus at UGA on meaningful teaching that inspires students to analyze and evaluate.

“The learning experiences I have valued the most are the ones that make me want to take action,” he said.