A centrally important normative concept in economics is that of Pareto improvement (named after Vilfredo Pareto). It basically says that finding opportunities where everyone is made better off, and no one is made worse off, is a good thing.
Hard to argue with that.
Though you might not know it yet, we all have a Pareto-improving opportunity in front of us that will make our lives—yours, mine, and the college’s—even better. And it is low-hanging fruit, too.
Transition with me from a central economic concept to a central economics event—at least at Beloit College. This February, I was invited to attend Beloit College’s 30th Econ Day. As I was lunching with junior and senior economics majors on the campus of the University of Chicago’s Booth School, I asked: What did Econ Day mean for them? I got lots of answers, but here is the essence: Econ Day is a chance to begin to understand how a Beloit education translates into a lifetime of purposeful consequence.
For the last 30 years, faculty members in the economics department have invited majors to travel to Chicago for a day designed to offer multiple opportunities to connect with alumni—primarily in business careers—who willingly take time out of their busy lives to interact with these students. On the surface, this day is billed as a career networking opportunity. Indeed, countless business cards are exchanged; students are dressed in apparel I never knew they had (ties, for God’s sake!); and lots of advice is dispensed regarding how to engage in a job search. But, when I actually listen to the conversations, it becomes clear how much more is being accomplished. It is really a trail of breadcrumbs that connects four years of Beloit with another 80 or so years of life. Leave it to Beloiters to convert a good idea into a great idea.
Now for a seeming non sequitur. Eighteen months ago I commissioned a team of faculty, students, and staff, led by Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Philosophy Matt Tedesco, to explore opportunities to take our Liberal Arts in Practice curriculum to new levels. At its core, the Liberal Arts in Practice paradigm is the centerpiece of a Beloit College education. In a world of increasing complexity, ambiguity, and change, how do students come to understand, appreciate, and take advantage of the power of their Beloit College education?
What Professor Tedesco and his insightful team learned is that Econ Day was a signature example of a Liberal Arts in Practice experience. When they dug a little deeper, they discovered that there were lots of similar sorts of things being done–authentic and meaningful connections between alumni and students that spoke to Liberal Arts in Practice principles. Out of this came a terrific proposal: Let’s make the development of alumni-student connections a priority for the college. Let’s make alumni connections part of the four-year experience—all four years—for all students going forward. Let’s be intentional, energetic, and creative about developing opportunities for these connections.
And what we hear from our Alumni Affairs Office is that our alumni, nearly to a person, are also seeking meaningful interactions with our students. No surprise there, but a really good thing to know.
So there you have it, a Pareto improvement. The development of alumni connections with students falls squarely into this category. Thanks Matt! Thanks Econ!
How will this impact you? I am not sure, except that I am sure it will. Your role as an alumna/alumnus/parent/friend will change, and we will begin to propose ideas and opportunities for how it will change. You are about to become an ever deeper and richer part of our students’ Liberal Arts in Practice-based education at Beloit College. Stay tuned for what that means and how you can help shape it.
President Chapin spoke regularly and passionately about the qualities of Beloit alumni. He would be thrilled about the idea of making alumni a more important part of our students’ four years. From here at Chapin’s inspirational desk, it is a great day to be a Beloiter.
-President Scott Bierman