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Media Advisory: Wake Forest president joins national LEAP Employer-Educator Compact to show economic value of a broad 21st century liberal education

By Katie Neal, 336-758-6141, nealkc@wfu.edu and Cheryl Walker, 336-758-6073, walkercv@wfu.edu Office of Communications and External Relations

Wake Forest University announced today its participation in a new national initiative called the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact.

Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch has signed the Compact, which was developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and by employers working with AAC&U.  AAC&U is a national organization of colleges and universities of which Wake Forest is a long-standing member.

At an April 10 Compact forum in Washington, D.C., featuring remarks by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, AAC&U launched the new LEAP Employer-Educator Compact to make high quality college learning a shared national priority.  More than 250 college presidents, business and nonprofit leaders have signed on to the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact. They have pledged to work together to ensure that all college students—including those attending two-year and four-year, public and private institutions—have access to a high quality liberal education that prepares them successfully for work, life and citizenship.  President Hatch also is a member of a special presidential leadership group within AAC&U called the LEAP Presidents’ Trust. Presidents’ Trust members and employers who work with them are the initial signatories to this ongoing national initiative to ensure that today’s students will be well prepared for economic, civic and global challenges.

Participating campuses and employers will work together through 2014 to showcase employer support for the aims and outcomes of a broad liberal education and to show how higher education is helping students connect college learning with work, citizenship and global challenges.

As part of the Compact initiative, Wake Forest is partnering with PepsiCo, LearnShark and Moody’s Analytics to underscore the economic value of liberal education and to provide students with more hands-on learning opportunities to connect their campus learning with real-world contexts and problems.

Under the vision of President Nathan Hatch and leadership of Vice President Andy Chan, Wake Forest has made personal and career development a mission-critical component of the college experience.  “Bringing educators and employers together to make sure we’re connected to the marketplace is essential,” said Mercy Eyadiel, the executive director of employer relations at Wake Forest, who is attending the AAC&U event.

“It’s not surprising that the majority of business and non-profit leaders surveyed by AAC&U would recommend a 21st-century liberal education to a young person they know,” Eyadiel said. “With 95 percent of Wake Forest graduates who responded to the first destination survey from the Class of 2012 reporting that they are either employed or in graduate school — and with very little difference in outcomes between students from the business school or the liberal arts college — it is evident that employers and graduate schools highly value liberal education regardless of their major.”

Dhruva Rajendra, CEO of LearnShark, said, “When you’re trying to innovate and solve big problems, you need people in your organization who are broad thinkers and who are able to develop solutions based on a diverse set of perspectives. I find that students who come from a liberally educated background are taught how to think and solve problems which are indispensable skills for any profession now or in the future.”

Following this week’s AAC&U event, 20 Wake Forest students will meet with eight DC Tech Startups for career exploration, networking, and potential job opportunities. These unique opportunities were made available to students because of the University’s partnership with LearnShark, a startup that provides a platform for companies to capture, track, distribute, and share learning across their organization.

“Too many students believe that the key to economic success is completion of a major whose title seems to promise a job,” said AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider.  “What the Compact and the research on employer priorities show is that, whatever the choice of major, employers say that career success will require broad liberal learning, strong 21st-century skills, and ‘real-world’ experience and savvy. We want to make sure that students and their families hear this message from employers themselves.”

National Survey of Business and Nonprofit Employers (released today by AAC&U)

At the release event in Washington, D.C. today, AAC&U also released a report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, summarizing the findings of a national survey of business and nonprofit employers.  Among other things, the survey reveals that, after reading a definition, 74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a twenty-first century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.

The findings from this national survey of business and nonprofit leaders also reveal that:

  • Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
  • Even more (95 percent) say they prioritize hiring college graduates with skills that will help them contribute to innovation in the workplace.
  • About 95 percent of those surveyed also say it is important that those they hire demonstrateethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.
  • More than 75 percent of those surveyed say they want more emphasis on five key areas including: critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings.
  • 80 percent of employers agree that, regardless of their major, every college student should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.

Members of the Presidents’ Trust include leaders of institutions representing every sector of higher education—liberal arts colleges, community colleges, comprehensive state universities, and research universities. Business and nonprofit leaders signing the compact include individuals from many sectors of the economy including: finance, engineering, manufacturing, healthcare, human services, insurance, education, media, retail, real estate, and energy.  For a full list of LEAP Presidents’ Trust members and employers signing the compact, see: www.aacu.org/leap/presidentstrust/compact.

All the individuals signing the LEAP Employer-Educator Compact have committed to:

1)     Helping Americans understand the rising demands of a global workplace and the need for every student to acquire liberal education outcomes;

2)     Ensuring that all college students have access to experiences that help them develop the broad knowledge and intellectual skills needed for success;

3)     Expanding and supporting new designs for hands-on learning, including such things as senior projects, undergraduate research, and internships;

4)     Advancing the dual mission for American higher education to prepare students both for successful careers and for civic responsibility;

5)     Documenting progress in helping all students achieve key learning outcomes, including their ability to apply learning to complex problems.

For a full report of the complete findings from the 2013 survey of business and non-profit leaders, see:  http://www.aacu.org/leap/public_opinion_research.cfm.

About Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.

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