Deans’ Lecture: Preparing for the future

Galen Godbey, Ph.D., this year’s keynote speaker for the annual Deans’ LectureIn today’s high-technology world, what can students and others do to ensure that their jobs will not be replaced by robots? This was one of the questions posed by the Galen Godbey, Ph.D., this year’s keynote speaker for the annual Deans’ Lecture at Montgomery County Community College on April 13.

Godbey, who recently co-authored a book, “The Future of Leisure, Sport, and Tourism: Navigating Change,” is a professor at Moravian College. His 40-year career in education includes roles as a senior administrator, teacher, fund-raiser, project manager, lobbyist, researcher and public speaker, among others. The Pennsylvania Council for International Education recognized Godbey with its W. Lamar Kopp Lifetime Achievement award in 2014.

During his lecture, Godbey spoke about how the next 20 years will be shaped by climate change, population growth and technology.

His recommendations for staying ahead of the impending “software takeover” and other changes are to think innovatively, pursue entrepreneurship and develop skills that cannot be replicated by a robot.

“We have an ethical obligation to warn students about jobs in accounting, finance and other areas that can be performed by software and algorithms,” he said.

Instead, students should take initiative, learn how to identify and solve problems, develop strong communication skills, and use leisure time productively.

“For many people, their identities are tied to their jobs,” he said. “When they are forced into leisure, such as laid-off steelworkers were, they watch TV, sleep more and fall into depression. They don’t know how to do anything but their jobs.”

He also noted that innovation doesn’t come from exhausted, overworked people. Many companies, he said, are starting to incorporate one day a week when employees can work on their own projects, allowing them to develop new ideas and products.

However, current systems often create roadblocks for developing these skills, he said. The public K-12 education system, for example, seeks compliance and results and doesn’t allow for divergent thinking. Additionally, financial barriers, such as college debit, often inhibits people from taking risks and seeking entrepreneurial opportunities.

“We can’t cling to old models, if we want to accelerate through the rough waters of the 21st century. We need to develop skills that are robot-proof, learn how to navigate leisure and get involved in politics and the government,” he concluded.

Part of the College’s Speaker Series, the Deans’ Lecture program brings eminent scholars to campus to present their research and findings to the academic community and the public.