Learning Goes Beyond Rooms, Parting Thoughts as Graduation Nears

For many students, the often drudgery of high school leaves one in a track of one-sided thinking, learning by a curriculum, not by exploration of ideas. As I near the end of my time here in the Carroll School of Management at Boston College I felt a personal need to share some parting thoughts as new chapters begin post-grad, as I see them.

Learning is a lifelong endeavor, regardless of setting.

Interestingly enough, high school graduation is often a time where students feel relieved — relieved from the daily “task” of classes and more activities than one could ever possibly fulfill. But continuing one’s education in a higher education setting is a commitment to more than buying textbooks and idly sitting through hour-long lectures. It’s about equipping oneself with the tools necessary to discern the views held, the ability to interact with others in a way hopefully producing productivity going into the workplace.

Learning is not defined by a room, nor a professor instilling certain opinions that one must take as a given. It is a dynamic process taking on many shapes and forms, through interactions with others, groups fostering open discussion, and taking the time to ask “what makes you do what you do?”

[BC Talk by Shalin Mehta on networking and mentoring others]

Expecting the entire answer set is where high school sets many up for functional fixedness in thinking about learning as a binary concept: Question and immediate answer. As I conclude my business school career it is ever-more apparent that learning is a broad construct more centrally boiling down to one person — you. Learning is what you make of it. It can be the solutions to a multiple-choice exam, or it can more vitally be the lifelong commitment to broadening knowledge and questioning things often too easily taken as givens.

Everyone has something to teach, something to learn more about, and an ability to not let the absence of brick-walls and projectors be the end of furthering personal development.

Education is not about “getting jobs” — but supplying the analytical framework.

As economic conditions fluctuate over time and serve as trepidation for many regarding opportunities after graduating, it is important to remember that school does not teach the exact skills required of any job. One may learn the basics and overview of certain fields of study, but ultimately the translation into the working environment is a personal commitment to learn what needs to be learned, to ask the questions others have yet to ask.

Attending a university is a privilege, and it is also an outline that allows one to spend the remainder of life penciling in more fully. Being able to see things from many perspectives is where the value stems from; not being too engrossed in the “business way of thinking, or the “philosophical” approach alone, gives the chance to adopt the views seen fit, to understand the implications across fields beyond one’s degree field.

The doors may open, but staying in the room goes beyond this.

Earning a degree is a feat in and of itself, a mark of having persuaded a path and stayed committed to it. It is also often an initial tool in landing those interviews for “dream positions” and standing out from a crowd. But it is not an omnipotent force.

Graduating with a management degree, marketing degree, or economics degree helps get a foot within the door, often raising the chances of being offered a position or moving on to the next round with management. However, once one is already inside, the degree says little about the factors that contribute to one’s success (however one choses to define this). Passion, integrity, willingness to help, character — these are not written on any piece of paper, nor are they necessarily immediately evident. However, they are the differentiators between a good employee and a great one, one who cares versus one going through the motions.

As graduation nears later in May, another chapter is being concluded. But the novel is one that has barely begun…

- Daniel S. Williams (www.danielswilliams.net)