Relationships are the Future of Higher Education

Relationships> Why? > Mindset> Adaptability> Community


Relationships are central to learning. This is true in 2017, and in our opinion it will always be true. Any student who has navigated the K-12 system knows how impersonal it can be. Students who are successful in our “factory” system then end up on another conveyor belt leading from college to a career.

When we take a moment to reflect, it’s never the textbook that makes the biggest impact. Who does? It is the committed professor who helps to cultivate a good idea. It’s the passionate (okay, overzealous?) classmate who pushes you to consider views far outside of your personal experience. In the corporate world, it’s the genuinely caring supervisor pushing you to stretch yourself to solve a problem.

In 2017, Higher Ed is short on relationships. Mentoring plugs that gap.

Finding Why?

Our working lives as humans are both art and science. Academic work provides the hard machinery for success, but your “why” is the deeper music that fuels you through long nights and sacrifices. If you haven’t heard of this idea, check out Simon Sinek in this brief video.

In terms of working life, it’s important to explore this as early as possible, ideally before your first 65 hour work week… Your “why” is the beacon that attracts you to certain organizations and allows you to persist through challenging times. Becoming a billionaire is a valid “why”. Saving the whales is equally valid. It’s subjective, and it’s the process that matters.

A mentor can help connect those dots, making the path forward less mysterious. As we invest in relationships, we allow ourselves to explore the intersection of purpose and effectiveness.


A college student with a well-considered “why” is a dynamic force. Unfortunately, vigor alone cannot stop you from posting a “C” on your marketing analytics midterm. Enter another important factor, the “growth mindset”.

Starting in college and ending never, humans learn by completing cycles of failure and repetition. Now and into the future, our goals, roles, and networks will be increasingly fluid. You should read Carol Dweck’s book. For our discussion I’m comfortable reducing it to this: to reach your potential, you must re-frame the notion of “failure”.

On a macro level, the new generation of learners must recognize college is the starting point to a life long process.

I personally have not figured out this balance between accountability and acceptance of failure. Any progress that I've made has come through connecting with people who have already walked the path.


The world of work is changing. Actually, it has already changed. In the traditional sense of the word, “careers” don’t really exist. To thrive in this new environment, it’s critical that students develop self awareness and “learn how to learn”.

You say, “but isn’t kick-starting meta-learning an outcome squarely tied to the academic work we complete in college?” Yes.

Mentoring complements the student’s inevitable experience of the “try-fail-improve” cycle. A good mentor provides context and connects dots.

Didn’t get the job offer? Good, you are one application closer to a “yes”. You want to drop out of your program and write poetry? Easy! Taking STEM courses does not preclude you from writing a haiku! You have failed accounting 201 four times despite hiring a tutor? Perhaps we talk about pivoting…

All of that feedback is critical given the changing landscape of work.


Communication has always been a prized attribute of new graduates entering into the workforce. In 2017, the notion of being a solid communicator” is wildly multidimensional because business is multi-lingual and cross-functional. It’s definitely still “learn Spanish”, but now it’s also “understand some python”. As we communicate, the set of automatic, shared assumptions that precede dialogue is decreasing.

I met this guy last week… He was a content guy working for a small tech company. The “office” is in Florida. He was preparing for a pilot and the client was in Texas. He’s a “creative”, but reports into the math-brained VP of Marketing who lives in New York… I wish I could see some scans of that guy’s brain before a big deadline.

Mark Cuban recently wrote about his forecast that liberal arts majors will become prized in the next decade due to their ability to interpret complexity and ambiguity. I think this communication piece is core to his perspective.


When you sum up a bunch of these 1:1 relationships within a University, the end product is strong communities. For an example of what strong learning communities look like, check out

We suspect you’re about to eject to Facebook or another medium post, so we’ll take on community next time we write. That will probably encompass mentoring synergies, purpose, small universities, and social capital.

Do you agree with our point of view? How have relationships influenced your journey? Drop us a comment.

Don’t hit ❤ though, we want to stay under the radar!


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