Dr. Alexander Cartwright, University of Central Florida (UCF) president, and Dr. Thad Seymour, UCF’s interim leader for partnerships, talked about the evolving landscape of education and its intersection with industry, innovation, and economic development in fireside chat forum at MetaCenter Global Week in Orlando, Florida, Oct. 19.


The talk, “Unleashing Potential and Innovation: The Intersection of Education and Industry,” addressed (among other topics) Orlando’s opportunity to differentiate itself using its strengths.


“Technology is not just about the various, little things it’s doing, but how it’s driving almost everything you can think of in our economy,“ Cartwright said. “Technology is now interfacing with the arts, the humanities and health. It’s not just technology for the sake of technology, but how it’s actually impacting the lives of everybody in society… there are lots of ways we can drive technology without even understanding the technology, which is really fascinating.”


The university president’s strategic plan for UCF to be the “university for the future” considers the talents and skills that students will need going forward. He said that if UCF educated the way he was educated 30 years, “that’s not going to serve students well today.” Cartwright went on to emphasize that students not only needed knowledge to make them immediately competitive, but also with the understanding that future situations could change quickly.


“When I graduated with my electrical engineering degree, that degree would’ve worked for me for many years, and I would’ve probably had to update my skills over a longer period of time,” Cartwright said. “Now, [students] graduate, and they have to update their skills the next day – and that’s only going to accelerate. The biggest skill isn’t just teaching the basics so they can learn new technologies, but also how do they discern the new things they should be learning and how to differentiate themselves… it’s just a different time.”


Cartwright said he sees a time when industry becomes more reliant on academia working more closely to educate employees as a natural progression of outsourcing to become more efficient as a company and do things at scale.


“You’re going to see that transition where… there is a merger between industry and academics,” Cartwright said. “That’s what needs to happen, and that’s how we keep our competitive edge and continue to be efficient.”


Seymour and Cartwright also discussed the impending effects of artificial intelligence and machine learning on who would be able to enter certain fields in the future.


“When I was going through engineering, the barrier was a student’s math skills,” Cartwright said. “Now, I see a time when it isn’t all about math. Engineers will still need to know math as the base… but we also need people who are exceptional with the technologies and understand how to use them in a creative way. Many apps are being developed by people without an engineering background, but they understand what’s needed and how to make it most impactful.”

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