Dean of SMC business school educates Rotary about next generations of students

Published 9:27 am Friday, March 29, 2019

DOWAGIAC — While Rotary clubs may often be associated with older community members, the Dowagiac Rotary Club took an interest in the younger members of the community at its regular meeting on Thursday.

Dr. Stacy Young, the dean of Southwestern Michigan College’s School of Business and Advanced Technology, gave a brief presentation to the Rotary Club about how her department and SMC as a whole is appealing to the learning interests of upcoming generations of college students.

In her work with SMC, Young has begun researching and emphasizing entrepreneurship as a next phase of college education. Entrepreneurship has become a new focus in her departments, in part because of Generation Z, which is coming of college age.

“Generation Z are the kids coming out of high school right now,” Young said. “They’re kids born between 1995 and 2012. This group of students is very exciting to me.”

Young’s excitement for Generation Z begins not only with her own children who are part of the upcoming generation, but also in her research that points to the entrepreneurial interest within the fledgling demographic.

“In every article we read, and we watched a lot of webinars, we kept seeing the word entrepreneur,” Young said.

Young pointed to some of the characteristics of Generation Z that differentiate it even from the still young Millennial Generation. Some of her examples included how they are the first generation, in many ways, to be born into the technological and information age, and the first to grow up in an era of full-fledged diversity regarding race, sexuality and thought. The cocktail of Generation Z’s upbringing has shaped it for entrepreneurship, according to Young.

“These students really want to own their own businesses someday,” Young said. “Our research shows about 42 percent of Generation Z thinks about entrepreneurship. By the way, they’re not thinking about entrepreneurship in the way that you and I might think where we want to start a business and make tons of money. But they look at entrepreneurship as more of something where they can give part of themselves back.”

Young went on to share some of the ways SMC is reshaping its programs and offerings to accommodate Generation Z’s entrepreneurial drive. SMC will begin offering an Associate in Arts in Entrepreneurship, a two-year degree that will educate students about running a business and improving soft skills. The program will include a variety of business-related courses that ideally leaves room for student creativity and focus.

Young responded to several questions and comments from Rotarians about the program and ideas surrounding college education, career and entrepreneurship.

“I think this generation is going to be rock stars,” Young said. “Everything I read about them, they are thinking differently. They act differently. They have just really aspirational goals.”