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Generations in Higher Ed


The following video is thought-provoking, as it relates to the cultural experiences that have shaped us. The artist who created the video selected a variety of clips to capture and illustrate significant events across generations. I felt a strong emotional connection to the events shown, particularly those that directly related to my own generation. Reflecting on the phenomena shown invites us to reflect on the circumstances that have impacted our lives. What events and experiences defined your generation?

It’s important to think back on our own experiences as we prepare for Generation Z coming to college. What can we take from our past and apply to a new generation? What has Generation Z already experienced that may shape the way students relate to the world?

Literature suggests that Generation Z is already exhibiting defining characteristics that will likely influence them throughout their lives. These include career focus, inclusivity of others, financial frugality and an inseparability from technology. As you imagine the role of higher education in serving this population, I invite you to spend some time thinking about what we can continue to do successfully and what we need to change to respond to the needs of Generation Z.

Beth McCuskey
Vice Provost for Student Life

Generational Differences

See the chart below for guidelines to generational differences between Millennials and Generation Z.


Gen Z

Attitude Special Stressed

"Digital Native"
(Prensky, 2001)

Internet in Pocket
Online Presence Willing to Share:
Social Media Pioneers
Cultivated Public Presence
Learning Learn in Groups Learn Independently
(YouTube); then Groups
Financial Development Prosperity,
Brand Loyal
Leadership Celebrities Real People
Leadership Style (Over) Confident Maximizes Team Talents
Multi-Cultural Perspective Diversity Valued Inclusivity Valued
Overarching Work Philosophy Exploration,
Work-Life Balance
Stable, yet Entrepreneurial;
Career Oriented

Additional Resources

See below for additional resources, including books and excerpts, on generational differences.