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The Revolutionary Challenge aims to find new ways to help students contribute meaningfully in a fast-changing world.

Proposal aims to distinguish Dickinson as a leader in educating students for the future

When the Revolutionary Challenge asked Dickinsonians to propose revolutionary new ideas for a bold new future at Dickinson, the two on-campus FutureLab team members—Grant Braught, professor of computer science, and Damon Yarnell, associate provost and director of Dickinson’s Center for Advising, Internships & Lifelong Career Development—were among the many Dickinsonians who got straight to work.

Both of their budding proposals focused on profound evolutions in the ways we live and work because of complex factors like rapid technological advancements and social change, and on the ways Dickinson could best prepare students to adapt and thrive in the years and decades after graduation. Braught was interested in an “and/both” approach to computing and technology education at Dickinson that would best position students to contribute to the common good in the midst of accelerating societal change. Yarnell zeroed in on the overarching future of work and higher education at Dickinson and beyond.

In true Dickinson style, when they learned through colleagues about intersections in their work, they joined forces. Then they brought in fellow revolutionary Dickinsonians with related expertise.

The FutureLab team includes Braught; Yarnell; Duanduan Hsieh ’19, admissions counselor at Pitzer College; Rick Shangraw ’81, president of Cintana Education and Dickinson trustee; Meimei Song P’19, founder and director of Futures3; and Zachary Wahl ’98, founder of Enterprise Knowledge. Parke Rhoades 99, Pete Taft ’73, Rick Anderson 92 and other innovating alumni also contributed to the FutureLab concept.

The mission: to build on Dickinson’s established strengths in global, sustainability and civic engagement and interweave these values into future-focused classroom learning, high-level projects with off-campus partners and related skill-building in areas such as systems thinking. The ultimate goals: to help students recognize the megatrends that shape our fast-changing world and develop the strategic foresight and creative problem-solving skills to adapt and contribute meaningfully.

“Current Dickinson students want to do good and to do well. Regardless of their goals, FutureLab will position them to land prestigious opportunities immediately on graduation,” the FutureLab team wrote, in a joint email sent by Yarnell. “Our initiative ensures that Dickinson and Dickinsonians will always be ready to thrive and lead.”

As Wahl notes, this initiative is designed to not only ensure that students are equipped to lead the charge in addressing complex issues like climate change, shifting demographics, global health challenges, social justice and more, but also to distinguish the college as a leader in future-focused education.

“The FutureLab concept makes me incredibly proud that my alma mater is choosing to confront these challenges and arming others to lead,” he said. “Dynamic thinking, community leadership and active participation in working to make the world a better place are all hallmarks of Dickinsonians. FutureLab is a concept that can harness the best of those traits for the good of the college and the world.”

"Nothing is more important in today’s world than to be better prepared to think about the future," Shangraw adds. "By having strategic foresight and an entrepreneurial mindset, Dickinson graduates will thrive in their future endeavors.”


Published January 31, 2021