Florencio Travieso. Professor of Law, Emlyon Business School
This year has been challenging for students and professors alike. And as much as professors may want to rethink pedagogical approaches –and there is plenty to be done- I believe that one of the key issues is to place ourselves in the student’s perspective and imagine how this experience can be enriched.
This piece tries to bring a positive approach, a hopeful vision that in this context, as difficult and hard as it may seem on a day-to-day basis, there are a very large number of ideas that can improve the students’ training experience, in the short and long term. These are ideas and tips that I’ve shared with my students throughout the years, during breaks or office hours. Now that those opportunities are hard to find, here are 10 lessons for students, that I believe will help them enrich their experience in the school and in the future.
- Read long form pieces
These coronavirus times have increased (by force) your leisure time: No commuting, less cafeteria and bars, and more time at home. These are days to use that time to read, to inform yourselves and to find what’s beyond 280 characters. Longer form of reading is –I know- long, but that doesn’t mean that’s useless. Longer texts will allow you to have a deeper, more comprehensive understanding on a subject. And they will bring a vision of a subject from somebody that is not directly linked to the subject (A journalist on business, an economist on competition law issues, etc.)
An alternative that I use with my students are TED talks that, even as a short format of a conference, still widens the frontiers of a topic bringing that multidisciplinary approach. They trigger discussions, develop ideas and help students structure their thoughts and public speaking.
- Reach out to your mentors
Professors are (mostly) human. They are passionate of their topics and enjoy an interesting and fruitful conversation, during and after lectures. And they have also been students before, and they recall professors that were more motivating than others. And some might’ve probably triggered vocations. Use your time at school to get to know them and establish a link with them. Ask to see them in office hours. In Covid-19 times, they might probably be available and willing to just listen to your questions. Don’t use them just as ‘service providers’, they might help you to connect with other people if you need particular help.
Professors will remember good students forever. I am still in touch with a handful of professors that have even become peers and friends. Don’t think that the subordination link is forever. Once you graduate, you will become peers.
- Expand your scope
Open up. Widen your competences. Not only through (more) online courses, but also by reading topics and text outside your comfort zone. Technology, science, economy, business, law. New approaches will always help you to develop a new angle on old thoughts.
- Study your favourite companies
Know the companies that you admire (and even those that you don’t). Follow them on twitter, set up google alerts for keeping up to date of their new products, campaigns, keynotes. See how they behave, how they address their shareholders, the press. There are plenty of things to say and think and comment about Tim Cook, Elon Musk or Jack Dorsey… And it will always provide you with interesting ‘cocktail conversation’.
Learning their moves and strategies will give you perspectives of their competitors, or future acquisitions. Being aware of their business situation will also become a trove of examples and case studies for your courses and assignments. Professors like to ignite conversations around known companies and their issues.
- Use your school’s networks (Alumni)
Knowing people will allow you to connect, to reach more people and to go forward. Your school has a phonebook of alumni, some might be celebrities in their sector. Graduates are mostly proud of their alma-matter and will certainly be open for contact, mail exchange and other kinds of informal advice. Through these corona times, alumni are very aware of how lucky they were in their time, and they are mostly willing to share experience, advice, and probably, a potential internship.
- Make a good use of social media
Connect. It’s inevitable. It’s everywhere and it’s probably taking too much time from all of us. However, use the tool and don’t let the tool use you. Twitter can be an interesting way to access to first-hand information, from the sources themselves. You may engage in conversation if you want, but that might not be the main goal. Create an academic/professional Twitter account, this will allow you to train the algorithm with more dedicated content. Place more energy on positive creativity than in trying to find the mistakes on other people’s work. Commenting and criticizing is easy. Designing, building and creating is hard. Don’t let social media use you.
- Never stop being curious
Curiosity is a driver of expansion and change. Curiosity is what makes science (and society) evolve. Ask yourself and ask your professors, they will be the first ones to show appreciation for such interest. Consume as much information as necessary in order to find those questions. Don’t let a day go by without going over a (simple question) about anything, how does a hybrid engine work? How What is the process of rocket combustion? Even if they might seem as particular engineering questions, this will give you the key to unlock this magical concept: Every invention is a solution to a problem. And most inventions are an improvement to previous inventions.
- Talk to your family
Perspective. Talk to your parents, grandparents, uncles. They most likely have also experienced a crisis, or downturns and bad seasons. And will also share with you how they kept their chin up, learned to face the challenges until they were over. Life is full of good, bad and uneventful moments. They all have a value, a place and a reason. Today –immersed in the constant flow of information- you cannot see any pattern on what is happening. Despair is an option, certainly, but not a solution. Your elders will give you that perspective and view that you need. Might not be a 100% optimistic, but it will be extremely useful and
- Education is an investment
Think of your current (and future) education as a stock that you are acquiring today. It may not have the expected value right away (present value of cash inflows), but know that it will grow in time. And that higher value will be your personal share price. The value of your education (your school, your internship companies) will evolve with time, as your own stock value will evolve with time, thanks to partnerships (with other students and peers), mergers & acquisitions (the assets and courses and experience that you’ll acquire in the future), all these things will reflect on your NPV (net present value).
- Be in peace with constant change.
Resilience. This is just the beginning of a bumpy road. Don’t be nostalgic about the pre-corona times, as it’s very probable that the future will not imitate the past. What’s next will be a constant adaptation to events to which we have less and less control. In the same way that working from home will become natural, and that the way we educate and the way we learn will still continue to evolve for a few more years. Be resilient, develop the capacity to adapt, to sort obstacles and to be more creative every step of the way.
These are some ideas that should bring light to students in these gloomy days. These are times to realize that we can change the way we do things, instead of being nostalgic from something that was done in a different way. As professors, we need to rethink, redesign and reinvent the way we teach. As professors, we need to inspire our students to be better prepared for the next twenty years. This is just the beginning.
About the Author
Florencio Travieso, France