President’s Column – Albright College

President’s Column

Learning How to Learn

As I travel in Pennsylvania and across the country, I often hear these questions: “What is the vision for Albright? What is it that we do that is distinctive?” I also hear many questions about recurring higher education headlines, which suggest that college is no longer as valuable as it has been and that the return on investment is not what it should be.

I answer the questions about return on investment with data. A study by the New York Fed in 2014 showed that the return on college investment has climbed from about 10 percent in the 1970s to 15 percent in the early 2000s, and has remained at 15 percent, despite rising tuition. If we break out the return on investment by college major, the New York Fed showed that the return on investment varies between 12 and 18 percent for all majors — science, math, English, history, arts and social sciences — offered in most liberal arts schools.

I’ve spent much time during this past year reflecting on what I learned at Albright that has allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities that life has offered — from starting my own company to transitioning from a college science professor to a college administrator. Undeniably, Albright taught me to learn how to learn, and keep learning throughout my life. From doing an independent research project with Frieda Texter and answering questions that hadn’t yet been asked, to exploring topics far outside of my comfort zone in sociology, accounting and especially my interdisciplinary (IDS) course, “Rebels of the ’60s and ’70s,” with professors Harry Koursaros ’50 and Gary Adlestein — I was learning how to learn.

So, this is the story I share with alumni. From Albright’s IDS courses in the 1970s-2000s, to the connections and synthesis courses in today’s curriculum, Albright students develop the ability to learn how to learn. We engage students in crossing boundaries and to approach one problem from multiple disciplines with our connections courses. Students explore real-world problem-solving while working with faculty on research and creative exploration, in synthesis courses, internships and work experiences.

As our world rapidly changes, the ability to learn how to learn has never been more important. And what Albright has traditionally done so very well has never been more important. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 65 percent of jobs that today’s students will hold do not yet exist. The Frey Osborne Future of Employment Model predicts that 47 percent of current work will be automated by 2033 — meaning almost half of the jobs we know today will be obsolete in 15 years. Because of the learning skills that Albright intentionally develops, graduates will be ready to thrive in this world where jobs change, evolve and disappear rapidly.

At the same time, Albright has been ranked as one of the most ethnically and economically diverse campuses in the country. Why is this significant? Our campus community is a microcosm for our global society. The diversity of our campus allows our students to develop their communication and collaboration skills across races, across ethnicities, across cultures and across difference, helping them to be better prepared for tomorrow’s world.

And yes, outcomes do show that our approach is working. A 2016 Mobility Report Cards study about the role of colleges in intergenerational mobility showed that Albright is among the best schools in the nation for helping students develop the skills necessary to support successful careers and improve their socioeconomic status. Our graduates more often climb one or two socioeconomic quintiles within 15 years of graduation — not surprisingly the same amount of time in which careers are expected to be starkly different.

But don’t take my word for it. Read the stories of our students and alumni inside this issue and you’ll see what I mean. Albright College is a premier learning environment for the 21st century; a place where learning how to learn prepares new generations for success.

Best regards,

Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Ph.D. ’82
President and Professor of Chemistry