The College of Humanities hosted more than 20 executives of top corporations for the Change & Transformation Council’s winter meeting, focusing on the humanities role in the future of work.
The roots of the collaboration began at the Change & Transformation Conference last summer in New York, when College of Humanities Dean Alain-Philippe Durand met Kent A. Greenes. Greenes, Senior Fellow in Human Capital at The Conference Board and Program Director of the Change & Transformation Council. In conversation, the two realized they were focused on many of the same issues, Durand from the education perspective and Greenes from the business perspective.
“In my conversation with A-P, in a very short time, I heard him talking about the skills and competencies the College of Humanities is developing in its students that are relevant to change and transformation, especially critical thinking and cultural understanding and awareness,” Greenes said. “His theme of humanizing the workforce of the future is really similar to our work and I saw it as an opportunity to collaborate and learn from each other on change and transformation. We know that the cultural understanding and critical thinking skills these students are learning will have a more critical role in the success of businesses than ever.”
Durand offered to host the Council’s winter meeting at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, and organized a College of Humanities presentation to the Council, a private group of senior leaders—including executives from Walmart, Cigna, Procter & Gamble, State Farm, TIAA and more—tasked with the responsibility of driving and enabling organizational change and transformation.
“This meeting was a fantastic opportunity for the College of Humanities and the University of Arizona’s students to network with some of the top companies in the nation and for the College of Humanities to establish a strong and long-term partnership with these companies on many levels we are already discussing,” Durand said. “This was a rare opportunity for humanities students and professors to make connections with leaders from Fortune 500 companies and other prominent sectors of business and government.”
Faculty presented on the new Applied Humanities degree, internship strategies, the Religious Studies for Health Professions degree concentration, digital humanities, global mindsets and intercultural dependencies.
“We are transforming the College of Humanities for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Durand said. “We shared our mission for students to become innovators and architects of change in the future and we heard from employers about what they expect from the workforce of the future.”
Greenes said the power of personal relationships is one important lesson from his career as a geophysicist and consultant. Cultural understanding, communication and engagement at a personal level are powerful skills in business.
“The College of Humanities, through A-P and the faculty, are so keen to grow and expand the college’s role in the workplace and businesses of tomorrow. People who have not come from a humanities background might be surprised at that, but five members of our council do and for them it was a reaffirmation,” Greenes said. “Our council gets why A-P wants to bring this into the College of Humanities and make it a little more explicit. The more you’ll be able to deal with change and transformation elements, the more success you’ll have. It goes along with the idea of Applied Humanities.”
Both Durand and Greenes said the meeting was just a first step and the College of Humanities and Change & Transformation Council will find ways to stay connected in the future, with internships, mentoring and advising.
“Another benefit of doing this is it forced the council members to think about the soft skills that we don’t always put as much emphasis on. It rekindled that need and demand for them to put more attention on the human side of what they do and to make their commitment stronger,” Greenes said. “They also see there’s the great source in the College of Humanities to get those cultural and critical thinking skills. Everyone benefits from this collaboration between the College of Humanities and a council like ours and that motivates everyone to continue putting effort into it. There’s an excitement to it.”