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Alumni speak at second RLA panel

April 17, 2019

The second panel of the Reimagining the Liberal Arts initiative hosted five alumni of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls speaking to faculty and staff about the important skills students need to bring into the workforce after they graduate with their bachelor’s degree.

The five alumni who were on the panel were Kristi Cernohous, Shannon Zimmerman, Barbara Butler, Michele Scheuermann, Chris Blasius, and Steve Wilcox, all of whom are either small business owners or executives at the businesses they work for.

These days, college graduates are expected to have somewhere around 11 career changes in their lifetime compared to five career changes the average baby boomer has had in their lifetime, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “We can assume that in their lives they may have as many as 11.2 different jobs and careers, and the most important thing pointed out to us is the vast majority of those jobs do not exist yet,” said Dean Yohnk, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who attended the annual AACU conference in January.

The alumni on the panel were asked a series of questions similar to those asked to students on the previous panel from February. One of these questions was, ‘What are the most important skills college graduates can have today for successful lives and careers?’ There was a long list of skills that were offered for the alumni on the panel to read off of and talk about which they believed to be the most important. This list of skill include things like, critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, leadership and service, global and intercultural fluency to value, respect, and learn for diverse people, etc.

“I’m going to go old school and say writing,” said Scheuermann on what she believes to be the most important skill to be for graduates. “No one can write anymore. If you can put a complete sentence together, my god, good for you. Maybe it is because I am an editor of a publication, so I see a lot of bad press releases come in from people with college degrees. What you write on your Instagram, that’s not the same an email or a letter that you’re going to send to someone. Put some effort into writing.”

“I think with today’s technology it is very hard to judge what our work product is in the grand scheme of things,” said Cernohous. “If you say, take a math problem, you can get the right answer in a dozen different ways, but there are infinite amount of ways to get the wrong answer. But there is still a right answer and a wrong answer to a math problem. I think when you’re doing  your problem solving, your critical thinking. How do you judge if you come to the right answer or the wrong answer when it is not as clear cut as a math problem? There real is a right answer to a lot of things.”

“I think to analyze data for facts and to really choose what are those facts, where are they coming from, are they credible? Just because it’s in print or somewhere on the internet doesn’t mean it’s credible fact. So digging in deeper, finding those critical facts, and then finding that analysis and turning it into knowledge, and then turning that knowledge into a solution, and that’ why I chose critical thinking as well,” said Butler.

The third panel for the Reimagining the Liberal Arts initiative, which would feature the Dean’s of CAS from across the UW System, was originally scheduled for April 11, but was canceled due to the winter storm from that day. The meeting is set to be rescheduled for sometime early in the Fall 2019 semester. More details concerning the third panel will come in the upcoming months.