Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.”

In a world where technology permeates our daily lives, The W’s liberal arts foundation is what makes our graduates ready to face not only today’s labor market demand, but the ability to use problem solving and critical thinking to adapt to a changing market. It is the liberal arts that make our graduates more engaged in all aspects of society.

At the beginning of the year, I attended the Mississippi Economic Council’s Capitol Day, where we were presented with the results of a survey of Mississippi Employers that asked what qualities were most important in an educated workforce. The top overwhelming response was not technical skills. It was what we have come to call soft skills—a strong work ethic, integrity and communication. These soft skills are ideally planted at an early age, nurtured by family, K-12 education and society.

It is a combination of these soft skills, along with the understanding of history, philosophy, the arts and sciences, that our nation’s leaders and problem solvers all have in common. Job training prepares people to do just that—a job. Higher education hones those analytical skills to create solutions, to forge new paths and to be leaders. Education needs to focus on complex problem solving.

We have seen or heard references that say by 2030 65-85% of today’s students will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. While it may be hard to get one’s head around this concept, I see the value in the importance of not just training to the job at hand, but investing in the foundations of a good education grounded in the liberal arts, where students can sharpen the skills of critical thinking, communications, creativity and collaboration.

Throughout its history, The W has played an important role in providing specialized curricula that trained individuals for particular professions demanded by the regional labor market, as well as instilling qualities that employers desire from graduates entering the workforce.

Today, The W continues its long tradition of excellence in liberal arts and professional education for our students. I hope each of you will personally invite and encourage a prospective student to build their foundation with us. In this issue of Visions, you will learn about some of our liberal arts alumni and their exciting and fulfi lling career paths, which have led them to places they never expected.

Details about our new digital studies minor can be found on page 28. The new academic minor is designed to help students develop critical thinking and technical skills around data and information literacy.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to congratulate our women’s basketball team on clenching the 2018-19 USCAA Division I National Championship. This is the second national championship in the history of the university and the first since the rebirth of athletics. Be sure to read more about the team’s journey this season and Go Owls!