A Disability or a Gift – Dyslexia

John was creative and hard-working college student. His was majoring in computer engineering which is where he found his gift at coding. His interests spanned outside the classroom to rock climbing and other outdoor adventures. This well-rounded creative genius faced one daunting obstacle, the vast amounts of reading associated with demanding, tech-heavy majors. John visualized text differently than others, a situation he saw not as a disability but as another challenge to face.

Dyslexia is associated with difficulties in learning to read, having problems spelling words and some slowness in processing symbolic information. It is a source of anxiety and frustration for many whose learning is based heavily on acquiring knowledge through reading. Neuroscientists have found that the left hemisphere of your brain is the home of our language processing. The right hemisphere is known to be the home of our creativity. Recent research has tied problem-solving and creative thought processes used by engineers and scientists to this right hemisphere. Most adults will have a larger left hemisphere compared to the right. Researchers have found that dyslexic’s possess a larger right hemisphere, providing fertile ground for creativity and problem solving.

Some of our greatest leaders in industry and the arts were known to be dyslexic. John Lennon and Cher shared the gift of the musician. Each day we experience the creative genius of two other dyslexics, Steven Spielberg who brought us E.T. and Saving Private Ryan and Walt Disney who brought us on so many animated journeys starting with Mickey Mouse and then created Disney World theme parks to enjoy them in person. Great artists in history struggled with this disorder including Pablo Picasso and Leonardo Da Vinci leading up to present day Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. Notables in American history with dyslexia include George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Henry Ford.

A disability is often described as a limitation. What is not discussed is the gift that is associated with it. A recent study found that over 35 percent of successful entrepreneurs were diagnosed with dyslexia. The study found they quickly developed perseverance and tenacity to overcome this reading challenge. We now also know that they had a gift of a larger right hemisphere of their brain, providing them with creative tools to see the world a bit differently, allowing them to solve problems in a unique way others could not.

Many employers classify those with dyslexia as possessing a disability. They should be viewing it as a gift. The grade point average of a student challenged with dyslexia is not an accurate measure of their gifts of persistence, tenacity, and creativity. If we use history as our teacher, these individuals are the hidden gems that see the world through a different lens and will bring unique and creative answers to the problems we will face in the future.


Steel Mill Tour 17-Mar-2016

Michigan Tech students are  invited on an all-expense paid trip to Chicago to visit ArcelorMittal’s largest U.S. steelmaking facility.

We know the best way to learn about career possibilities is to experience it first-hand. ArcelorMittal is a valued corporate partner with Michigan Tech, and they have a strong tradition of hiring Michigan Tech students. ArcelorMittal is the world’s leading steel and mining company. It is the leading steel supplier to all major markets, including automotive and construction.

Depart: Thursday, March 17, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.

Return: Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Travel by motor coach. During the trip, you will experience tours of Steelmaking, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, and some great Chicago Deep-Dish pizza! Accommodations with the Ramada Hammond Hotel and Conference Center in Hammond, IN. All travel, accommodations and meals are paid.

You must pre-register at: http://goo.gl/forms/IqMxN6qnmu


Student-Athletes – moving recruits from Good to Great!

If you were to ask recruiters what skills they need in each of their new good recruits the list would include: life-long learners, good communicators, able to work in diverse groups, and adaptable to new situations. If you were to ask what additional skills great recruits have they would include: perseverance, tenacious, resilient, passionate, and dedicated. The experiences of student athletes provides them the opportunity to move from good to great.

John Standeford played football and basketball for Monrovia High School, a town of 1,200 outside of Indianapolis. This 6’4’’, 168 lbs. wide-received was offered a chance to play for Purdue University by Coach Joe Tiller, going from playing for a team of 22 players to one of 105 with a much higher level of skill per player. He made the most of his experience through hard work, graduating in 2004 while holding the Big Ten’s all-time career receptions record with 266 catches. The skills he gained were put on display in his professional football career.

Drafted and signed by the Washington Redskins, he was soon traded to the Indianapolis Colts, playing for then Coach Tony Dungy. John played on the practice squad, focusing on outworking his peers. He took on his coaches mantra of ‘no excuses, no explanation’, a theme that can be associated with Nike’s Just Do It! During the 2007 season John was moved up to the active roster, a day he celebrated with dinner out with his wife. The next day Coach Dungy called him in to his office, telling him he needed to be sent back down to the practice squad due to injuries in other positions. John could have packed his bag and walked out, but he responded with an elevated effort.

With four remaining games in the 2007 regular season, John’s agent was contacted by the Detroit Lions with an offer to play for them. Coach Dungy could have responded by releasing John, but instead called him into his office. Dungy shared his thoughts of admiration he had for John, enduring when John was asked to play a role he didn’t enjoy, John chose to show up each day, putting forth his maximum effort while supporting his teammates in the process. This coach believed in integrity, faith, and hard work, then offering John a spot on the active roster for the remainder of the season. The Colts made the playoffs that year, with Peyton Manning having a career year at quarterback and John stayed on the active roster as the Indianapolis Colts went on to win the Super Bowl.

The next year, John Standeford, with a Super Bowl ring on his finger, moved on to play for the Detroit Lions. In the final game of the season, John went on to have a career high 6 receptions against all-pro defender Al Harris of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Unfortunately, he would be another name on the wall in the NFL Hall of Fame, this time being a member of a team that went winless on the season.

John Standeford was a small town boy who was carried to success in his career through his perseverance, tenacity, resilience, passion, and dedication. Today’s recruiters are looking for those with the determination to succeed, who are willing to show up and persevere whether they are on a team of 22 or 105. Recruiters should not overlook student-athletes as they fill their rosters to build their success-oriented corporate teams.


One Hundred Years Strong

It was the sound of a whistle blowing from a surrounding factory that became the lightbulb moment leading to cooperative education as we know it today. Cooperative Education has a rich 100-plus year history, with its U.S. roots beginning at the University of Cincinnati thanks to the diligent work of Herman Schneider, an educator dedicated to engineering education. The idea came after his extensive conversations with schools along the east coast as he searched to identify what engineers were missing in their education.

Cooperative education is one model, and I would argue the most valuable, of work-integrated learning. Schneider knew that an engineering curriculum was not complete without students practicing their skills in an authentic setting. Co-ops provide just that.  As students on our campus prepare for the upcoming spring career fair, they may not know Herman Schneider, nor the actual age of cooperative education, but they are well aware that having co-op experience as evidence of their professional development will be highly valued by the recruiters.

The interesting part comes when we begin to ask why. While it is easy to argue that students are better prepared for the workplace as a result of a co-op, research has not focused on the learning that causes the student to return as a different version of themselves. Exactly what do students learn while on a co-op? And how do they learn? What factors are important in their learning?  A co-op is a collaboration between the student, the employer, and the university, so all should be committed to ensuring a quality experience – as Herman Schneider envisioned. Michigan Tech is committed to do our part, and we look forward to our co-op collaborations. If you have not previously participated in the co-op program, contact me to find out how Michigan Tech might may be a great match with your company – and the whistle blowing moments will live on.

Kirsti Arko – Assistant Director for Experiential Learning and Career Development
karko@mtu.edu

 


Peer To Peer Networking For Experiential Education

Students love to interact with their peers.  I had a chance to observe this in action during some events held here on campus.  Career Services organized an event for students to share their experiences from their Experiential Education (Co-op or Internship) with students 1 or 2 years behind them.  To facilitate the discussion, students described what they learned while out working.  Afterwards, students displayed posters sharing their work experiences.

Giving students a chance to network with each other changes the entire dynamics of the conversation.  The style of the questions was dramatically different than the typical Career Fair interaction.  These conversations were more informal, more relaxed, and more conversational.  Why the big difference?  Students were talking to their peers?  Students on both sides of the table were were excited to learn, excited to share, and willing to “tell the truth” from their experiences.

What was most amazing to me was that after 3 or 6 or 8 months working for a company, our students were able to articulate the work culture and environment at their company.  They were just as passionate about the company they worked for as a seasoned member of the recruiting team.

This is an event that is easy to over-think or over-complicate.  Essentially, we invited students to make posters and asked them to share with their colleagues.  The rest of the interactions were unscripted and some of the most educational programming we have available to our students.

For pictures from the event, check out our Flickr page.

 



Career Paths Are Not Linear

As a 3-year-old what they “want to be when they grow up” and they immediately shout out “Astronaut!” or “Ballerina!” or “Fireman!”  These occupations usually include recognizable costumes, books, an animated TV show, and action figures.

Very few of us grow up to become what we wanted to be at such a young age.  We are influenced by friends, family, peers, educators, and managers we encounter throughout our formative years.  There can be external pressure applied throughout the process.  Parents focus on their son or daughter graduating with a job.  Students feel pressure to get out into the “real world.”  Higher Education collects, analyzes, and scrutinizes “first destination” data.

Careers are definitely not straight lines drawn from college graduation to retirement.  

What if you worked tirelessly toward a career with the full knowledge that it would only last a few years?  Last week, I was fortunate enough to meet two extremely humble, hard-working, and honest people.  These athletes had success at the highest level of their sports and now have moved on to more “traditional” jobs.

John Standeford (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Standeford) and Zach McClellan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zach_McClellan) visited the Michigan Tech campus to share the story of their life journey.  John (NFL) and Zach (MLB) spent years on buses, in the weight room, being cut/traded, and sacrificing portions of their bodies and lives to pursue a dream.  They knew full well the dream was difficult to achieve and would have a short duration.

To me, these are the most important things they shared with us:

  • Be Coachable – There are many people along the way that will give you suggestions for improvements.  You must be able to listen to them and incorporate their feedback into your actions.  You may not always agree, but they have your best interests in mind.
  • Attention To Detail – Why does it matter if your jersey is tucked in?  Because every detail matters and being sloppy on lots of small details can result in bigger problems later.
  • Honor your commitments – You are only as good as your reputation or your word.  It is your responsibility to give maximum effort every single play, every single day, and throughout your career.
  • Be Present – Showing up is the easy part.  If the day is long or starts early, be alert, focused and dedicated on the task at hand.

Developing Self-efficacy Is the Key to Student Success

In 1920, a little-known author Arnold Munk wrote a book titled The Little Engine That Could which then began being sold door to door through the My Book House series. The book’s story line centered on a little railroad steam engine who attempted to pull a long train over a high mountain. The little engine agrees to attempt this challenging feat using the mantra “I think I can, I think I can”. It eventually succeeds due to the faith in its abilities to achieve this goal.

Fast-forward to 1971 when a then obscure researcher named Albert Bandura began to study the role that a person’s belief in their ability to achieve any goal, known as self-efficacy. The question is how do we build this belief in our abilities? Bandura identified four significant sources of these efficacy expectations: performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and emotional arousal. These are valuable lessons to use as students transition from college to career and beyond.

Vicarious experience is the idea that if you see someone else completing a job-related challenge, you gain the confidence that you can also accomplish such a challenge. It is the monkey see, monkey can do idea in its most basic form. Verbal persuasion often comes in the way of encouraging words or actions. This is the easiest to implement and as such is often thought to have the least value, but used correctly with sincerity is can play a key role in developing efficacy. Emotional arousal is often associated with anxiety which can debilitate performance. Developing coping skills to deal with stressful situations helps limit this performance detractor.

Bandura found that performance accomplishments were the most impactful in building an individual’s personal efficacy. In my doctoral research with freshmen college students I found this most often manifests itself in earning grades on tests or projects. Students also gained this sense of accomplishment in performing community service or in service learning programs where they aid others while achieving a personal or academic goal.

A student’s participation in internships and co-ops has been shown to have a significant impact on their self-efficacy. This career self-efficacy has been aided by structured company support during these employment opportunities. Companies use of mentors, self-produced seminars that help develop 21st century career skills, weekly performance review sessions, and assigned projects with a series of specific timely outcomes are just a few programs whose product is increased self-efficacy of those involved.

Arnold Monks story of this little engine that could symbolizes the importance that efficacy plays in creating an environment of possibility and a can do attitude in each current and future employee. The belief that a goal can be achieved is the most vital component necessary for achieving success in ones endeavors. As colleges and universities look to retool their curriculums to produce a prepared and engaged intellectual product that can succeed in industry, they should ensure that this process focuses on increasing the level of self-efficacy of each future graduate. Each student must believe they can!


A Time For Reflection

The end of the year brings with it many “Best Of” and “Top 10” lists of the accomplishments of the past twelve months.  Additionally, there are a whole host of “Predictions” for the next year.  These articles and programs seem to fill a void in all of the magazines and media outlets that want to distribute content when everyone would rather be on vacation.

Finding time to reflect upon lessons learned helps our minds and bodies take the various disconnected facts that we have learned and synthesize them to create new memories and patterns in our brain.  There is an on-going conversion back and forth between tacit and explicit knowledge.  

Taking time to unplug or relax or meditate is even harder than ever in today’s connected society.  It is only through reflection and setting objectives that new habits can be created.  If we set an objective to “Climb Mount Everest”, it automatically establishes a theme for all of the smaller steps that must be accomplished to support the primary goal.

As part of our efforts to help build a “Career Culture”, students need to use this same process.  Maybe you did just have “the worst class ever” or “impossible group project”.  What was it about the class that made it so challenging?  Was it hard to stay motivated in a part-time job that you only did to earn some cash?  Throughout your internship or co-op, what did you learn about corporate culture?  What teams were you a part of that made the work go better?  Worse?  Have you been exposed to project management systems that made you more confident about your work?

Since there is a never a good time to reflect, relax, and rejuvenate, let’s make this part of our year-end tradition!Relaxing-512


The Secret to Our Success – Developing and Acquiring Talent

In his book America Needs Talent, Jamie Merisotis defines talent as a skill which is the ability to use knowledge to learn more or to solve problems. It is not born or bought, but is made. Jim Compton noted in his book The Coming Jobs War that intellectual talent was the one renewable resource that when increased in a country could build an empire, but when it is not fostered it could topple governments and societies. Developing domestic talent and acquiring global talent will be the key to the prosperity of our society.

A recent study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that there will be 55 million jobs created in the next decade. Over 70 percent (40 million) of these jobs will require a college level certificate or degree. The challenge is that less than 40 percent of Americans have earned at least an associate’s degree while another 5 percent have earned some type of professional certificate. Intellectual talent attracts business and America is in short supply of this valuable resource.

Currently our education system is largely based on seat time.States define the number of hours each student must be in school each year from kindergarten through high school graduation. In college, you must earn a specific number of credits to achieve an associate degree and masters degree. Yes, you must pass course requirements but often these requirements center around the regurgitation of knowledge, not the demonstration of the application of this knowledge. Merisotis suggests creating a competency-based education system, designed for students to be awarded mastery of application of defined skills. Institutions would need to define the expected learning outcomes and the criteria that must be demonstrated by each student to show mastery of these skills.

The value of global talent to America can be found in the success of immigrants such as Jan Vilcek who came to the U.S. in the 1960’s from Czechoslovakia. After becoming a professor at New York University his research led to the development of the drug Remicade which helps treat patients suffering from Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. He also uses a portion of his wealth to support other scientists migrating to the U.S.

Australia has developed an immigration system that matches the needs of industry with the talents of immigrants. This talent-based system gives preference to those that possess the unique skills the needed by their society. Though Australia has a population of only 23 million people, fewer than the population of Texas, immigrants have added $3.4 billion to their government budgets from taxes they pay. The U.S. has experienced similar prosperity from American companies founded by immigrants which include: Google, AT&T, Ebay, Kohl’s, Big Lot’s, Pfizer, and Kraft.

Since 1983 the demand for college educated workers has grown 3 percent annually, while the supply of these graduates increased at a 2 percent rate. Companies are looking for a workforce with a depth of specific content knowledge, critical thinking skills, creativity, and ability to embrace change. It is estimated that our economy is losing in excess of $500 billion a year in Gross Domestic Product due to this lack of talent. Our investment in the development and acquisition of talent domestically and globally offers a proven opportunity to improve the lives of us all.