After reading the article “How is Innovation Taught? – On the Humanities and the Knowledge Economy” I felt like it was worthy to share my experiences visiting Hollins University as part of one of my classes this semester.
Hollins University is a small liberal arts women only college in the Roanoke area. We had the chance to visit and engage with conversations with the President of the institution and the Dean of Students. For me was a very interesting experience since in my country we don’t have colleges like this one. Some of the interesting things that caught my attention were:
1. Students are required to live on campus for four years.
2. The President, the Dean, and most of the administrators in important roles also live on campus.
3. A lot of the financial support comes from donations that alumni do every year.
4. Alumni have a lot of success finding the job of their dreams.
5. The Dean of students know every student (around 600) by name. They can knock on her door anytime to discuss any issues they want.
One of the things that impressed me was the faces of my colleagues listening to that university model. I was with people from the school of engineering and the school of business and they couldn’t understand how faculty and administrators could become so accesible for the students.
Also, the president told us that most of the students once they graduate take a year off to travel, write books, find their voice, and so on. One of my classmates from the school of business couldn’t understand that. She works with placement of students and making sure that every student find a job when they graduate. Same situation in engineering. They are so worried about placing students on the job market to be able to have indicators saying that the school is productive that some times they don’t even care about the student being placed in the right job. Interesting enough, the president was telling us that most of the alumni find the job of their dreams and most of them do really well, so well that they have been able to create several student programs because of the good donations that the school receives from alumni each year.
I think that we in engineering need to start copying a lot of the philosophy of liberal arts and the humanities. Maybe if our students were not that stressed about finding the job in the big company and instead they to take a year to see the world or find themselves, they may then be more productive (and innovative maybe) when they start their professional career. I do agree with Seth Godin, we need to rethink what schools are for and be able to think in our work as it if were “art”.
I remember when I worked in industry recruiting young engineers that the VP of HR always had a preference for engineers that could play an instrument, or had an art-related hobby like photography, cooking, or painting. He used to say that those guys can see the world different and are the best problem-solvers because they consider different perspectives.