Tech in Ten: Q&A with Lorelle Meadows

Students sit in a row in a lecture hall and the front student in focus is wearing a tan zip-up sweatshirt.
Students sit in a row in a lecture hall and the front student in focus is wearing a tan zip-up sweatshirt.
The Pavlis Honors College helps students define their own success.

Michigan Tech's thought leaders glimpse into the University's future. Lorelle Meadows, dean of the Pavlis Honors College, reflects on the role of honors colleges and changes in education over the next decade.

Q: The Pavlis Honors College is already different from a traditional honors college—what will change for us ten years down the road?

A: The Pavlis Honors College is the home for interdisciplinary experiential learning on campus.  We’re unique because most other honors colleges use GPAs and standardized tests to measure whether a student can enter and stay in their program.  At Tech, we’re turning this idea upside down because we know that a student's GPA and test scores are limited indicators of future success, and frankly, they aren’t accurate. 

Instead, we’re working with our students to define their own success—they articulate what success looks like and feels like, and we help them figure out how to get there.  We know that if we let our students shape their own goals, their motivation goes up and so do all measures of success, including GPA.  

Tech does a great job of giving our students the knowledge they need in their majors. What we’re doing is helping students develop competencies that prepare them for the unique challenges they’ll face after graduation.

This mode is necessary because in today’s world we’re no longer training students for the jobs we know, we’re educating them for a rapidly changing future where they will need to rely on skills and competencies like comfort with uncertainty and a bias for action.  This approach has been gaining traction nationally as we take a critical look at higher education and how well it’s serving our citizens and preparing our students for challenges of the 21st century.  People are curious about what we’re doing and how we do it.

Q: So, how do we prepare students?

A: As I just mentioned, the world is changing rapidly—the jobs we have today will be different in 10 years—and we don’t know what they’ll look like.  Technology and globalization are changing the game. 

To prepare our students for the future, we’ve identified nine honors abilities that we believe are important for our graduates.  These include merits like valuing diverse perspectives, embracing ambiguity, welcoming challenge and balancing confidence with humility.

"Our students learn these abilities by designing their own honors program that pushes them outside of their comfort zone; it gives them the opportunity to test their ideas, learn from failure and to better understand who they are and where their passions lie."Lorelle Meadows

Magann Dykema is a great example of a student who embodies the Pavlis abilities. Magann is a University Innovation Fellow who is encouraging students across Michigan Tech’s campus to engage in innovation, entrepreneurship and design thinking. She not only challenges herself, but she challenges others, including the college and university to make change.

Q: What will Michigan Tech graduates find motivating in the next decade?

Our students are already telling us what they want. They come here motivated to help others, to be a positive change in the world and to apply their knowledge in creative and unique ways. This is an incredible gift, and it’s our responsibility to fan this flame. To give them the opportunity to try things, to fail in a low risk environment, and to figure out how to kindle their own motivation.

This is what we do in Pavlis—we intertwine their major with a series of experiences that they design themselves, that build on their skills, interests and values. And, we don’t do this alone—we leverage Michigan Tech’s great network of faculty, staff and alumni to build partnerships and create opportunities for our students.  Interested in joining us?

Q: In ten years, what will an honors college student be like?

A:  I think that every student deserves an “honors” education.  Every student should be required to expand their education beyond the classroom, to transfer their knowledge between domains and to work in multidisciplinary teams.  They should be reflecting on their experiences holistically and using this time to build a deep understanding of themselves, to foster meaningful relationships with peers and mentors, and to develop a vision for their future that is based in their values and beliefs.  The vision to act with purpose in their lives.  This is the education that we encourage in students in the Pavlis Honors College, but wouldn’t we want every student to have this kind of experience?

A group of students and one older woman pose for a photo, most are wearing jeans and t-shirts
The Pavlis Honors College helps students define their own success--and see the world from a different point of view. 

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.