The following is an open letter from Startland News community builder Adam Arredondo to area universities.
Dear Kansas City-area university leaders,
I’ve spent a lot of time working with both students and representatives from many area universities over the last few years.
It’s been an eye-opening, roller coaster of a learning experience which has driven me to think extensively about education in Kansas City, and, ultimately, has led me to write this letter to you. My passion is building Kansas City, and any criticisms I may have are because I want the best for your students and want them to experience the excitement permeating our city.
As stewards of our city’s future, you are obligated to do everything you can to prepare students for the world that awaits after graduation. Nowadays, that requires giving students as many real-world, hands-on experiences as possible. However, far too many students never experience anything outside the walls of our beautiful campuses, which, at best, gives them a slow start and, at worst, dramatically limits their potential.
Based on my observations, it’s clear that your students are too isolated from Kansas City’s burgeoning entrepreneurial community to create the talent pipeline this city needs to compete in a fast-paced 21st century.
I applaud the efforts many schools have taken to become more focused on entrepreneurship, but that only scratches the surface of what’s needed. What all employers crave are team-oriented problem solvers who are adaptable and versatile. However, I see that our students aren’t engaging with our city’s most creative innovators, which is a detriment to the level of talent we could offer area businesses.
There are a few major issues that I see:
- Universities often get more focused on recruiting and “looking good” than delivering amazing experiences for their students.
- Being an entrepreneur is so much more than writing a business plan. Yet, that is exactly the output of most entrepreneurship programs.
- I haven’t found anyone that integrates an entrepreneurial mindset campus-wide, which would create an army of team-oriented innovators ready for any real-world challenge.
As an active entrepreneurial community leader, I think it’s a problem that most students I talk to have never heard of efforts like 1 Million Cups and the Sprint Accelerator. It’s a problem that I hardly know any students by name. It’s a problem that I have talked with multiple students who have stopped taking coding classes because it doesn’t feel applicable to a career. It’s a problem that many area universities haven’t jumped at the opportunity to introduce their students to the high-energy startup community, whether through guest speakers or field trips to places like Think Big Partners, the Kansas City Startup Village or Plexpod.
It’s easy to point out a problem; creating a solution is the hard part. I offer the following questions for you to ask yourself:
- Are you focused on providing valuable, real-world experiences or do you settle with academic exercises?
- Are your students collaborating across campus with other disciplines?
- Are students allowed to fail and learn from those failures?
- Are you connecting with those who are driving Kansas City’s momentum to share ideas and find opportunities for your students to be a part of it?
With all this being said, this isn’t just on you, the schools. It takes a community to give students the amazing experiences they need. I’ll be the first to raise my hand to be a part of the solution. My one hope for this letter is to start a conversation that leads to action.
I know this isn’t an easy fix but it’s an issue we can’t ignore. Kansas City’s future depends on it.