College and Business Will Never Be the Same: Philadelphia University Integrates Design, Engineering and Commerce
Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
—Attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and B.F. Skinner
There are 4633 accredited, degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States. This weekend I had dinner with one of them—a friend who’s now the president of Philadelphia University. He’s working hard to reinvent the school into a model for 21st century professional education.
The Silo Career Track
One of the problems in business today is that college graduates trained in a single professional discipline (i.e. design, engineering or business) end up graduating as domain experts but with little experience working across multiple disciplines.
In the business world of the of the 20th century it was assumed that upon graduation students would get jobs and focus the first years of their professional careers working on specific tasks related to their college degree specialty. It wasn’t until the middle of their careers that they find themselves having to work across disciplines (engineers, working with designers and product managers and vice versa) to collaborate and manage multiple groups outside their trained expertise.
This type of education made sense in design, engineering and business professions when graduates could be assured that the businesses they were joining offered stable careers that gave them a decade to get cross discipline expertise.
20th Century Professional Education
Today, college graduates with a traditional 20th century College and University curriculum start with a broad foundation but very quickly narrow into a set of specific electives focused on a narrow domain expertise.
Interdisciplinary and collaborative courses are offered as electives but don’t really close the gaps between design, engineering and business.
Interdisciplinary Education in a Volatile, Complex, and Ambiguous World
The business world is now a different place. Graduating students today are entering a world with little certainty or security. Many will get jobs that did not exist when they started college. Many more will find their jobs obsolete or shipped overseas by the middle of their career.
This means that students need skills that allow them to be agile, resilient, and cross functional. They need to view their careers knowing that new fields may emerge and others might disappear. Today most college curriculum are simply unaligned with modern business needs.