Bring the Real World to the Classroom

Ari Saati, Managing Editor

As the question of what one plans to do following college becomes harder and harder to ignore, twenty-somethings posed with this increasingly alienating query are being forced to re-evaluate their purpose in a competitive work place.

The subject has been done to death; the “Gen-Y has a skewed, unrealistic, and outlandish perceptions for what ‘real life’ constitutes” articles have become ubiquitous. All we want to do is wear flip flops to the office, get relentless positive reinforcement and we expect to be constantly engaged in creative endeavors, according to USA Today fluff pieces. This has almost become an understanding among our nation’s post-30 crowd; regardless of how distorted the notion is, it has some weight to it. This is why graduates my age opt out of the conventional work setting in lieu of things like freelance work. And this is also where a traditional college education seems to fall short, at least conceptually.

I’m not being taught particularly useful skills that I could subsist off of, leaving me to my own devices, which in and of itself serves as a filter of talent, I suppose. While the importance of a quality education can’t be understated, much of it just seems trivial in contrast with real life experience.

Our culture admires entrepreneurs; innovators like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg proliferate dialogue on the subject. Giving a critical eye to my education thus far though, I, generally, haven’t been encouraged to be innovative. On the contrary, I’ve been groomed to fall into what employers deemed desirable a decade ago, with little to no regard for any type of creative or original thought.
While this is obviously not always the case, it’s important to recognize that if someone’s aspirations don’t fall in line with spreadsheets and conference calls, skill sets need to be fostered in a college setting.

Coming into college, this was ultimately my expectation; an environment that acts as an incubator for our fledgling minds, giving birth to capable, informed and creative graduates. Although this isn’t entirely false, outside the classroom is where the sentiment really starts to resonate. The students who are active in our community, on and off campus, are the ones that take college as an opportunity to grow and better themselves.

In a lot of respects, the real world experiences attained through engagement with resources like clubs and internships provide the largest wealth of knowledge that’s applicable outside of the classroom. Not to underplay the importance of collegiate lessons and professors, as they provide a service that’s unparalleled, but the gap between the lecture hall and the real world needs to be bridged more often than it already is.

Some of the most eye opening forays into a realm other than that of academia for me have been working with SUNY’s Student Assembly. Having to collaborate with student government enthusiasts has been incredibly constructive in formulating what I want no part in during my professional career. It’s become synonymous for me with the bureaucracy of cubicle culture, a sentiment and frustration shared by many people my age.

Students are seeing little to no value in developing themselves outside of a GPA, and even that’s becoming increasingly arbitrary. The prospect of a dream job and the motivation to attain it, is more so than ever, becoming exclusively a #firstworldproblem, and it’s disheartening.

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