Presidential Podcast: Episode #8

The last installment of the UND Presidential Podcast for 2019 features Interim President Joshua Wynne’s commencement address from Dec. 20. Wishing the newest class of UND alumni a fruitful future, President Wynne talks about the advantages a university degree carries in an evolving job market.

The Presidential Podcast will be back in spring. Follow our “UND Presidential Podcast” page on Spotify to be among the first to hear each new podcast episode from the President!

Prefer to read it instead? Here is the full transcript:

Thank you all for being here today to celebrate and honor our newest class of University of North Dakota graduates, as well as those who have earned advanced degrees from the University. I am honored to have led UND, your university as interim president for the past six months. One of my primary goals during this time has been to maintain the momentum established with our One UND strategic plan. I am very pleased to say that our students, our alumni, our faculty and our staff have embraced the idea of moving UND forward while striving for excellence. When the time comes for me to pass the torch to UND’s these next President Andrew Armacost, I am confident that he will find UND well positioned to address the challenges and the opportunities of the 21st century. As graduates of the University of North Dakota, we want you to be prepared for whatever the future may bring. Of course, predicting the future is difficult but you should know that your degree gives you an advantage, as long as you view it as a foundation on which to build. Here’s what I can tell you about the future. According to a 2019 Bureau of Labor labor statistics report, people change jobs an average of 12 times during their lives. The bureau says that most people spend slightly more than 4 years in a job. I’m going to pause for a moment for everyone to appreciate the irony of me talking about changing jobs after a short period.

There’s a movie currently playing in the theaters called Ford vs Ferrari. It takes place in the mid-1960s and is based on a true story. It’s about Ford Motor Company’s effort to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, the most famous auto race in the world. In one scene, Henry Ford II halts production line at one of his company’s auto factories, and tells the workers, “Here that? That’s the sound of the Ford Motor Company going out of business.” Now, this may be Hollywood using creative license, but it serves as a good example of how tens of thousands of us jobs, once considered safe and stable for a lifetime no longer exist. Back then, at a time when the US auto industry was booming, most of the people working those production lines probably couldn’t begin to imagine the changes that would cause their jobs to start disappearing a decade later. This also had a ripple effect on many other jobs related to the American auto industry. The key lesson here is that if there’s one constant in the world, it’s change. The jobs of today may not be here tomorrow. And the jobs of tomorrow may not require the same knowledge and skills as the jobs of today. But you have the great advantage of leaving UND with a degree. And contrary to one popular, but incorrect belief, research shows that having a bachelor’s degree gives you a clear economic advantage over someone with just a high school diploma, even considering the high cost of a college education, an issue we’re working hard to address at UND. There are studies showing that someone with a bachelor’s degree we’re learning significantly more than a person with just a high school education. Those with graduate and professional degrees have an even higher rate of return on their educational investment, not to mention the smallest chance of ever being unemployed. As further proof, an article in the recent December 9 edition of The Wall Street Journal is entitled “College educated workers are taking over the American factory floor” and a detailed how manufacturing jobs that require the most problem solving skills, such as industrial engineers grew by 10 percent between 2012 and 2018, while those requiring the least shrank by 3 percent. The article went on to document that the percentage of manufacturing jobs requiring a college degree more than doubled in the past two decades and now constitutes more than 40 percent of all manufacturing jobs,

But the process of earning a degree through college education is not an end but a beginning. Your degree is a starting point that provides the educational foundation for lifelong learning. I hope you view it as an opportunity to build on your education as a means of intentionally preparing yourself for the inevitable changes along your career path, because they will happen. I cannot over stress the importance of lifelong learning even after you leave us today. It enables you to continually upgrade your skills and your knowledge. Your UND degree represents your insurance policy for adapting to change in whatever career field you have chosen. In closing, I once again want to thank family, friends and colleagues for being here today to honor the University of North Dakota’s newest graduates and advanced degree recipients and I want to thank everyone for their support and their words of encouragement. Let’s all pledge to continue the progress we’ve made as we move ahead to make your UND the premier flagship university on the northern plains. Thank you and congratulations!