November 7, 2018

What will the next 150 years bring for Purdue Polytechnic Institute?

Gary R. Bertoline Gary R. Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

The sesquicentennial celebration marks a time for Purdue to renew its commitment to growth, discovery and innovation. What giant leaps will the next 150 years bring as Purdue continues its drive to meet the world's future challenges? In this new monthly Purdue Today series, Purdue's deans will share their thoughts on the future of their college over the next 150 years. The series continues with Gary R. Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

What will the next 150 years bring for Purdue Polytechnic Institute?

As we look to the future and prepare our students for careers that do not yet exist, Purdue Polytechnic Institute will continue to lead and define what constitutes a great technology education. Persistent innovation in curriculum and teaching will prepare our students for a world of constant change and relentless advances in technology.

Children born today can expect to live for 100-plus years and to be a part of the workforce for up to 60 to 70 of those years. Successful colleges will prepare their graduates to change jobs and entire careers multiple times over the course of their lives. Lifelong learning will be required for an individual to stay relevant and employed, which means that graduation from the Polytechnic will be just one important milestone in a student’s learning journey. As a result, the Polytechnic will become even more engaged in post-baccalaureate opportunities that do not follow the traditional, on-campus learning model.

How we teach will evolve, and so will the content of what we teach. Digital convergence and innovation are reshaping every industry and profession by disrupting existing business and operating models and the workforce. Up to this point in human history, the skills workers needed to keep ahead of the machines were largely cognitive. Machines handled manual tasks, while cognitive tasks were the exclusive domain of humans.

However, exponential technology creates exponential change. The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that, within the next 17 years, machines will perform about 45 percent of today’s jobs. The dawn of artificial intelligence means humans will no longer have the cognitive playing field to themselves. Perhaps much sooner than any of us expect, machines will take up the thinking or nonroutine tasks previously reserved for humans.

Tomorrow’s successful workforce will tackle cognitive tasks that require creativity and intuition, and will solve problems that require great leaps of logic and imagination. Social skills also will become increasingly important in the next 150 years, as careers that require emotional intelligence rather than cognitive skill alone will take precedence.

We already can see that preparing our students solely for cognitive skills will not be enough for the next 150 years. Through the successful transformation of Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and with our continued evolution, we will provide a broad-based, transdisciplinary education that balances cognitive, technical and social skills for continued learning and success in an exciting, ever-changing future.

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