Did you hear about the superstar who left Miami and came to Cleveland?
No, I don’t have it backward.
Last year, Ronald Berkman left Florida International University, where he was provost and COO, and brought his talents to our shore. He’s president of Cleveland State University, and if his recent appearance at the Corporate Club at Landerhaven is any indication, he’s the type of academic star we need to help Northeast Ohioians compete in the global information economy.
In the Northeast Ohio Software Association’s latest quarterly survey, 61 percent of local tech firms said they are planning to add staff this year, but 44 percent reported “some difficulty” or a “hard time” hiring top tech talent.
Local higher education efforts such as John Carroll University’s enhanced curriculum may help counter that trend. But we need to get to kids earlier. How about we start with an IB degree?
No, that’s not a degree you get for reading Inside Business. It stands for International Baccalaureate. Berkman told the Corporate Club audience about the Campus International School, an aggressive collaboration between CSU and the Cleveland Public School that is creating a K-12 school where students will earn an International Baccalaureate diploma and become proficient in languages such as Chinese and Spanish. The school opens this fall at Euclid Avenue and East Street 30th with 120 students in kindergarten through second grade.
The proposed International Welcome Center in CSU’s backyard at 18th Street and Euclid Avenue could also help, Berkman said, by attracting more international students. CSU has already seen a dramatic growth in international enrollment, and an effort to make the city more immigrant-friendly and welcoming will help add to that influx.
For example, colleges in India have huge waiting lists because Indian high school students far outnumber the available spots. Students who can’t get higher education at home may see CSU and other U.S. colleges as attractive destinations.
Berkman, who received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1976, says his goal is to make CSU “first among our peers” — an excellent urban university. He wants to do that by leveraging Cleveland’s assets and spoke of the value of CSU’s downtown location, proximity to world-class art and music, and the school’s efforts to encourage students and faculty to live in the neighborhood.
As the region bemoans the loss of a basketball player to Miami, it was interesting to hear ideas about the city’s strengths from an educator who left Miami for Cleveland. Berkman says Cleveland’s culture has helped CSU attract an excellent faculty.
“Cleveland is such an intellectual-friendly city,” Berkman said. “We don’t have dialogues like this in Miami. We don’t have a lot of civic discourse in Miami.”
Across town several weeks earlier, the 2010 Collaboration Technology Summit at CWRU attracted another academic star with helpful advice. Howard Rheingold, CollabTech’s keynote speaker, is a writer, thinker and educator at Stanford and UC Berkeley. Rheingold coined the phrase “virtual communities” in 1987, long before Facebook and MySpace.
For the past five years, Rheingold has ventured into a nontraditional learning environment called the Social Media Classroom, which includes a free, open-source Web service that provides teachers and learners with an integrated set of communication tools.
Employers should know of a cautionary phrase Rheingold has coined: the “myth of the digital native.” Many people of a certain age feel they’re at a disadvantage in the digital economy. They assume that because young people have grown up with technology, they must all be masters of it.
Not so, Rheingold said. Just because job candidates are young, have mastered 17 levels of the latest video game and can text without looking at their smart phones, that doesn’t mean they are adept at skills your business needs.
Rheingold said there are always a few kids in his classes who know more than he does — and he tries to identify them as quickly as possible — but the rest have a lot to learn. Youth itself does not give someone programming chops in Ruby on Rails or .NET.
Rheingold said the young often lack a skill he called critical consumption — or “crap detection.” “We are accustomed to the authority of the text,” he said, adding that schools need to teach young people to question that authority. With no barriers to publishing on the Internet, a student or employee must be able to drill through inaccuracies to get to the truth.
We need our local universities to continue to aggressively attract young people and prepare them with the right tools. Their efforts have already been recognized nationally in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings and, more importantly, by outside investment. The triumvirate of CWRU, OneCommunity and University Circle is not just a sandbox for companies and institutions to test in — it’s the whole playground.
That’s why Cisco has chosen Northeast Ohio as only the 10th region in the world to be named one of their Smart + Connected communities.
Witness that, Miami.
Entreprenerd Dan Hanson (email@example.com) thinks his pals in the Dawg Pound will be more friendly to intellectuals than someone in a Heat jersey.