An open letter to Gen Z students in the current age of college:
Nobody saw Coronavirus coming––not you, not me. But this biological menace, which has turned our lives upside down, is here to stay. And it most certainly has no intention of leaving academics alone; in fact, the virus has only just begun to topple our traditional notion of education and related institutions. But let me just tell you this, nothing will go back to the way it was before. You have been warned. We have now entered full blown digital transformation at a scale never before seen. Industries that once thrived from retail to event planning have now been decimated, while other sectors cling to their last breath. You cannot afford to enter the economy in such dreaded circumstances. So why do you continue to enroll in college as proud marketing majors? As art history students? As journalist hopefuls? Wake up!
We have entered the next societal revolution. Everything is about digital. If you are not pursuing a future that is in the digital direction, you will be screwed. You must understand that the future is artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. The future is purpose and value driven, all of which is built around a digital framework. Wake up! You will not be able to achieve employment if you desire to become an English teacher. It’s too little, too late for that now. I know you’re probably also elated by the fact that you will return to your college come fall semester, ready to party it up with your friends and go to in person classes. This will not happen.
Colleges, including mine (UMN) are on track to lose up to $300 million or more as a result of Coronavirus. And even when the time comes to reopen, college funds will likely be depleted to the point where budgets won't have the bandwidth to maintain infrastructure and related student necessities. The system is collapsing right beneath our eyes, and you are a fool if you think it will all go back to normal.
And let it collapse. The notion of a static degree in this fast-paced digital world is incredulous. Everything is dynamic, everything changes overnight, and you’re experiencing it for yourself right now. The future is skills-based, and you know it. We need to be the generation that takes the leap as true innovators to push the digital way forward. This is your chance to become a true pioneer akin to the inventive souls that spurred the 16th-17th century enlightenment. We can make history, but we need to make it together as a team. So, wake up! College isn’t what it used to be, life isn’t what it used to be, and it’s our job to create the digital future that the globe has been preaching for decades on end. It’s time to do, not talk. And you will not be able to do much with your degree in journalism, I’ll tell you that much. Wake up!