5 things you missed…. if you missed Brandon Busteed

Brandon Busteed
December 7
Timmy Hussain '20

Brandon Busteed, Director of Education and Workforce Development at Gallup, recently gave an xTalk on Nov 29, entitled “Why Old School is New School in Higher Education”. The fact-driven presentation outlined the shortcomings of our current educational system – particularly regarding the metrics we use to measure success. The data used in his talk incorporated results from an ongoing annual study of over 72,000 graduates, currently in its 30th month of running.

As a first-year student at MIT, the biggest takeaway for me was Busteed’s reminder that there is far more to learning and skills acquisition than numbers and letter grades. In addition, I resonated with his emphasis on the importance of building lasting relationships with faculty, staff, and members of the MIT community at large. Here are Busteeds’ main points:

  1. The quality of US higher education is in question.
    Although college education is still valued by 97% of US adults, there is a high level of dissatisfaction with its quality. Grade inflation has raised the average mark in college to an A, increasing the average GPA by 1.1 points in the last 30 years. This would appear to indicate it’s getting easier to succeed at college but there is doubt, beyond more than the scope of grades, about how well prepared a college graduate is for employment.
  2. Employers want more than grades.
    “If a 4.0 GPA today doesn’t mean what a 4.0 GPA meant 30 years ago, how can we rely on grades as an accurate indicator for success?” employers are asking. Google has found there is no relation between grades and employee success, and thus has stopped considering grades in their hiring process. But if grades don’t matter, what does?
  3. Business leaders want experience.
    Gallup’s research indicates that the number one thing employers want in a candidate is internship or on-the-job experience. The numbers show, however, that less than a third of US college graduates have these opportunities before they graduate. MIT is atypical in this regard where a well-developed culture for UROPs, internships, externships and similar opportunities exists.
  4. Behavioral economic metrics are important.
    Psychology tells us decision making is a 70% emotional and 30% rational process, so why is such little emphasis placed on emotional indicators for success at college? Factors such as hope, engagement and optimism are better indicators of educational success than grades or rank. Whether one is a freshman still enjoying the benefits of Pass/No Record or a senior counting the days till graduation, there is meaning and significance in the knowledge that emotional intelligence plays a major role in life and career preparedness.
  5. Mentors influence productivity.
    The notion that engagement is an important success factor runs throughout the career ladder, Busteed finds. Employees feel more valued when their opinions are heard. In addition, the disparity between the most and least engaged workers is strongly related to the identification of a mentor in the organization, someone who encourages your goals and dreams. Mentored employees stay in their jobs longer and are more productive.

Blogger Timmy Hussain is a first-year MIT student.

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