Innovation in Our Education

By Guest Contributor

Grant Nishioka ’13 is from Wayland, Mass.

As liberal arts students, we’ve learned a lot. We’re able to contrast the behavior of international markets with that of individuals. We can use exponential functions to better comprehend musical scales. If we really wanted, we could even delineate Plato’s transcendental metaphysical theories from Nietzsche’s existential poetry in order to appreciate religious and atheistic perspectives simultaneously. Some can do it in multiple languages. It seems we’ve learned how to tackle just about any question, yet those without any “right” answers leave many of us stumped.

What do I want to do? What skills will I need? Am I ready for the “real world?” While the uncertainty surrounding these questions can frustrate even the most competent student, one program has a reputation for helping them navigate the unknown.

We have all heard about MiddCORE. The program prepares students by developing leadership and innovation skills. It connects participants to inspirational mentors who help them approach real life problems with no right answers, including every adult’s favorite conversation-starter,“What are your plans for after graduation?”

It’s a tempting opportunity for many students, yet the time commitment is quite intimidating. We’re so busy preparing ourselves for life after college by maximizing our GPAs and cramming as much knowledge as possible in between our ears that we seldom stop to think about bridging the gap between what we’re taught and what we want do with it. However, if there’s one point I want to make in this article, it is that MiddCORE is worth every minute of your time.

During my first week of MiddCORE at Monterey, I found myself surrounded by students who were exceptional in their ability to take initiative and search for more. They were willing to step outside their comfort zones and lead in the face of uncertainty. As we began the social challenge aspect of the course, each team quickly ran into the same roadblock. Our task was to generate ideas addressing the future land usage of a former army base called Fort Ord. For the first time in our educational careers, we encountered a problem whose solution couldn’t be taught or studied because there simply was no correct answer.

As one executive said in the New York Times, “we can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.”

One day after class I approached our head instructor with a look of confusion and defeat. Before I said anything he addressed my question. “This is a real life problem, which means there are no right or wrong answers. Thousands of professionals haven’t found a solution in over 20 years. Use the workshops as your tools and do something.”

Realizing that we weren’t going to solve the social problem in its entirety, we began to brainstorm ways to help push the stalemate between stakeholders in a direction. We proposed a campground and welcome center to boost ecotourism and give visitors and locals the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of Fort Ord firsthand.

MiddCORE enables students to generate innovative solutions to complex problems and made me confident in my ability to add value to America’s largest grocery wholesaler after college. When I reflect on my four years here the most important thing I’ve discovered is my love for learning, and relying on that in order to approach uncertainty made it all worthwhile. Thanks, Midd(CORE).
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