Undergraduate Education and the Prestige Economy

This article from Policymic discusses the relationship between the recent ruling on internships in a federal court and the "prestige economy." The article highlights a set of tweets that summarize the issue written by Sarah Kendzior, a popular writer at al-Jazeera English.

One tweet in particular "Tell young people they have no skills" highlights an issue that I deal with frequently among undergraduate students. Kendzior suggests that students are taught that they have no skills and that they need fancy unpaid internships as evidence that they have skills. I remember feeling this way, and it is one of the reasons that I chose to do a PhD instead of joining the Peace Corps. It felt like I did not have tangible skills to offer and that doing a PhD would be developing a set of research skills that would be marketable.

The students I work with frequently have a similar mindset. They suggest to me they have no skills when really what they have is NO TANGIBLE EVIDENCE OF THEIR SKILLS. There is a significant difference between not having skills and not being able to prove  to someone that you have skills. Of course, grades and research papers are evidence of skills, but if students would just take one step beyond doing the bare minimum, they would have much more to market.

Faculty and mentors need to encourage students to have TANGIBLE EVIDENCE OF THEIR SKILLS . There are a host of undergraduate journals, newspapers, and lower level policy journals that would accept contributions from undergraduate students. Many students are waiting for someone to confirm legitimacy on them.  This is why I take every possible opportunity to say to my top students "you should publish this" and to help them find outlets to do so. At the end of the day, however, students need to take more initiative and get things out there. Over the next year I'll be compiling a list of places for students to publish their work. Let me know any that I'm missing.