Neil Sharkey said he often talks with industry leaders who tell him they want employees with global perspective.
“That’s what makes productive decision-making,” said Sharkey, Penn State’s vice president of research.
To foster an appreciation of differences in people, he said, Penn State has three main areas of focus that drive students to be effective in society after graduation: learning, research and outreach.
On Thursday, Sharkey addressed a group of people at the annual Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County’s State of Education luncheon at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.
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The idea is to make our commonwealth better, and as the university and commonwealth see fit. If we’re not adding public value and addressing problems then we’re not doing our job
Neil Sharkey, VP of research at Penn State
“The idea is to make our commonwealth better, and as the university and commonwealth see fit,” he said. “If we’re not adding public value and addressing problems, then we’re not doing our job.”
Sharkey said one of the movements is leaning away from lecturing and instead trying new ways to implement “effective learning,” with professors serving more as facilitators.
“Because information is so accessible for professors and students, you don’t have to be, as a professor, the conveyor of information; you’re more or less serving as a guide or as a mentor and as an integrator to decipher information,” he said. “Students just learn differently because of their rapid-fire input over the course of their lives, so if you’re going to stand up and give a boring lecture, you are tuned out in three or four minutes.”
Another movement Sharkey spoke of is the utilization of research students to help facilitate class.
Sharkey said more undergraduate students are willing to learn from someone who they can relate to, such as a graduate research student, rather than a professor.
They help provide tools for educating (21st) century learners, and that’s helping fulfill our mission on campus. It’s enhancing the capacity to learn when they’re more engaged
“They help provide tools for educating (21st-) century learners, and that’s helping fulfill our mission on campus,” he said. “It’s enhancing the capacity to learn when they’re more engaged.”
Some research graduates are funded through grants that support their jobs and research — something Sharkey said is the driving force behind evolving education.
“It’s kind of like a hybrid-learning environment right now, and I think we’re doing as well as any higher institution out there,” he said.