Future U. podcast visits MU to learn about higher education’s future

Future U. podcast visits MU to learn about higher education's future


Stopping at Marymount University’s campus in early May during its national campus tour, top-rated The Future U. Podcast recorded an extensive episode in the Ballston Center auditorium featuring administrators, faculty and students from Marymount.

President Irma Becerra, Provost Hesham El-Rewini, School of Technology and Innovation Director Diane Murphy and incoming SGA President Nicholas Mariel all took the stage to discuss the future of higher education, liberal arts, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and more. They were also joined by Jeffrey Lancaster, senior higher education strategist with Dell Technologies. The episode debuted on the website of The Future U. Podcast this week.

Future U. podcast visits MU to learn about higher education's future

The episode began with The Future U. host Michael Horn interviewing President Becerra about the University’s decision to incorporate the liberal arts in the context of high-demand programs that result in jobs. She described how the move goes against the grain of the ‘Harvard model,’ opening up a new avenue for colleges to not only stay relevant but thrive in the 21st century.

“I think it’s important that we are differentiated – and clearly, students that come to Marymount vote with their feet and pick the programs that they’re here to study, whether it be Cybersecurity or Forensic & Legal Psychology or another program. We have many programs that are thriving and they reflect the needs of not only our community but the nation,” President Becerra explained. “The type of student that comes to Marymount is seeking the type of career preparation where they will be able to land a great job in four years or less, and that’s what we are committed to do in terms of serving our students.”

This discussion continued with a panel moderated by host Jeff Selingo that focused on ways to keep higher education current and how to best prepare students for their futures. Dr. El-Rewini touched on the decline of student interest in humanities and liberal arts degrees since the 2008 recession, citing figures that include a 35 percent drop in degrees awarded in these fields between 2012 and 2022. However, he explained that the importance of liberal arts is still great and must still be emphasized to all students.

“We believe that liberal arts is and will continue to be a foundational and important component of education. This is where students will learn critical thinking, problem solving, empathy, open-mindedness and lifelong learning,” Dr. El-Rewini said. “We will continue to offer a strong [liberal arts] core…and highlight better and further integration of liberal arts in other disciplines. For example, we started an undergraduate program in Artificial Intelligence. Philosophy faculty can teach the ethics of AI within the program, and team up with faculty from Computer Science and Psychology to work together in cognitive science.”

Future U. podcast visits MU to learn about higher education's future

The overall value of a college degree was a noteworthy topic during the episode, as Selingo described how 1.3 million students were lost from higher education enrollment during the pandemic era “because many of them really don’t find a lot of relevance in what they’re studying.” Mariel, an Economics major at Marymount minoring in International Business, spoke on how he’s found his sense of purpose during his college years.

“I really value what universities give to the person – I’ve just matured so much and I hope other people could admire that,” Mariel reflected. “College also builds your social network. That’s something very hard that you can’t just learn by yourself in the street or just by working. I feel college is necessary and it’s going to allow you to continue learning about life and all of its different aspects.”

Honing in on the STEM fields in particular, Selingo brought in Dr. Murphy and Lancaster into the conversation when discussing how smaller colleges and universities can compete with large research institutions on cutting-edge fields in tech. The success of Marymount’s Cybersecurity program was illustrated, beginning as a graduate certificate program in 2008 before expanding to encompass undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels today and serving more than 450 students.

“The three most important things are situational awareness, relationships and innovation as well as agility,” Dr. Murphy said. “We’re after the people who want to have a good career. If you think about undergraduate students and you ask them, ‘what will your career be in five years,’ it’s not just a matter of talking to a business and saying, ‘what talent are you looking for?’ It’s a matter of envisioning the talent that will be required in the future.”

“I think skills are a big part of the conversation, but more important than skills is the ability to learn,” Lancaster added. “What employers are looking for are employees and people who can contribute to the business, who can adapt to the ever-changing world. As things move more quickly, they can keep up with that. If you wait for the course to come around to learn the thing, you’re already behind.”

This episode of The Future U. Podcast was made possible with support from Dell Technologies and Google ChromeOS. Click here to view more from its national campus tour series.

Future U. podcast visits MU to learn about higher education's future