EP 75 - How to Change Higher Education
Feat. Brandon Stover, Founder of Plato University
Hello! Brandon here. Welcome to the Evolve Podcast.
Evolve is a show to help you become a hero and solve the worlds greatest challenges.
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Our guest today is me! I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the More in Common podcast by my friends Keith Richardson and Rodney Campbell.
You may remember them from Episode 66 on the Evolve podcast. These gents are thoughtful, funny, and have a great mission to anchor humanity in compassionate conversations.
In the interview I share:
How to listen to others and TRULY understand them
The dark challenges I faced that led me to finding my purpose
How I am changing the higher education paradigm
And a bonus of how three podcasters use (or fail to use!) their podcasting skills in conversations outside of podcasts.
Why it matters: This interview is a great behind the scenes look at why I started Plato University after discovering the problems with higher education.
Lesson 1: How to Listen to Others
Keith and Rodney start every interview with a tip about how to navigate difficult conversations. My tip was to listen and keep listening until you truly understand.
During a conversation, try to really hear the other person, try to understand it from their side and acknowledge the emotions that they feel.
A voice of judgement may arise, calm that and ask yourself why that is coming up before blurting out your judgement, opinion, or perspective.
Practice thinking before you speak by bringing yourself back to the present moment when triggered, acknowledge the emotion or thought, and analyze why it arose.
Relay back to the other person what you heard, validating their perspective and emotions. It’s ok if you were wrong in your listening, it opens them up to go deeper.
Podcasting helped me to cultivate my listening skills through a love of finding out how other people think and solve problems.
A depth of conversation is encouraged during podcasting that is not really available in other types of conversations.
Creating a container, such as a podcast interview, allows others to disconnect from distractions, be vulnerable, and engage.
Why it matters: If you can’t listen and truly hear what others are saying, you will never be able to connect or collaborate with another person.
Lesson 2: How to Discover Your Purpose
The journey to discovering my purpose started with the promise of the “golden ticket” to relieve me from the poverty and strife of childhood.
My single mother wanted me to have a better life so college was framed as the golden ticket - the thing that will make you successful in life.
Excelling in school, I made it to college and graduated with a Bachelors and Masters in architecture.
After 3 years working in Architecture I was depressed, realizing that I was not actually having the impact in the world that I wanted to make.
I left architecture to find something for myself that would fulfill the original drive of changing the world. Slowly I found my way back to education.
Discovering my passion by reconnecting with my love for education required a process of introspection.
My depression reminded of my parent’s battle with depression, forcing me to face it and change my life for fulfillment.
I started reading tons of books in entrepreneurship and self development, including Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
This book asked my to constantly reflect on my passions and meaning in life.
From freelance design to ecommerce, I tried dozens of business ideas and skills, but they were not right because I still had a burning desire to change education.
Why it matters: Everyone’s journey to purpose is different. However, hearing other’s stories can give you paths to try for yourself in your own search for meaning.
Lesson 3: How to Change Higher Education
Higher education has many problems, but I believe there are three are at the core:
There is a ever widening skills gap & need for talent. By 2030, a global shortage of skilled talent is projected to result in an $8.5 trillion loss in foregone annual revenues.
Our world has a need for global solutions. Higher education must play a critical role in preparing individuals with skills to solve systematic problems.
We have an epidemic in the loss of purpose, meaning, and identity.
There is a rise in people’s expressed importance to live life with a sense of purpose: 80% in 2016, 89% in 2017, 91% in 2018.
Four out of five US college graduates say it is very important (37%) or extremely important (43%) to derive a sense of purpose from their work.
However, less than half of college graduates succeed in finding purposeful work, according to the 2019 Gallup & Bates College’s Study.
Evidence suggests lost purpose has influenced the 264 million people suffering from depression worldwide and suicide as the leading cause of death for young people.
Plato University addresses these problems by guiding students to turn passions into purpose through mastering skills and launching a career solving global challenges.
Our process begins by helping students realize their passions, not what their parents or society told them to do or shoehorning them into a major.
We combine that passion with needs in society, like solving climate change, and help the student master the skills needed to solve that problem.
Because students are doing something meaningful to both themselves and society, they feel a sense of purpose and are rewarded internally and externally.
Other core features of Plato University include:
Mastery Based Learning, focusing on students actually being able to learn and apply skills regardless of the time it takes for them to do so.
Online blended approach, combining the best of independent, self paced learning with active, social learning and live support.
Creating portfolios of projects to signal to employers knowledge of skills instead of degrees allegedly saying a student knows the skills.
An education to job pipeline to mission-driven startups, nonprofits, and social enterprises solving global issues.
An affordable monthly subscription rather than thousands of dollars of debt in tuition.
We are in the startup stage, having ran a small alpha program last year, and building out courses this year. We hope to have our first pilot program by the end of 2022.
Connect With Our Guest:
Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
(00:00) - Introduction
(06:36) - How to navigate difficult conversations
(09:01) - How to calm the voice of judgement in your mind
(11:00) - How to connect and recognize other's emotions
(12:33) - How podcasting made me a better listener
(16:20) - How podcasting skills transfer to other areas of life
(20:28) - Podcasting as a container for deeper conversations
(24:09) - Chasing the golden ticket and reaching depression
(28:24) - How I started the path to finding purpose
(32:35) - Does fear play into my decisions
(37:42) - How students start finding their purpose at Plato University
(40:30) - How did Plato University start
(45:03) - How millennials and gen z are demanding purpose in their life
(53:40) - What does Plato University look like at scale?
(57:53) - How do employers look at education?
(52:04) - What does a degree signal in Higher Education?
(1:05:29) - What does compassion mean?