• August 22, 2014

Today's Students Are More Globally Aware, Less Materialistic, Leading Pollster Says

Today's Students Are More Globally Aware, Less Materialistic, Leading Pollster Says

Washington — The generation of young people who are filling college classrooms and becoming junior faculty members today are more globally aware and less concerned about material wealth than were their predecessors, a leading public-opinion pollster told more than 150 college and university presidents and other top administrators who attended The Chronicle’s Leadership Forum here today.

John Zogby, who is president and chief executive officer of the marketing and research firm Zogby International and has been conducting polls for more than 20 years, said college administrators should keep in mind the priorities of “America’s first global citizens” — those now 18 to 30 years old. Fifty-six percent of people in that age group, he said, have passports and have traveled abroad: “They are as likely to say they are citizens of the planet Earth as they are to say they are citizens of the United States.”

Mr. Zogby has taught history for 25 years and is a senior adviser at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also the author of The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream.

Today’s college students are “the most diverse, multicultural generation yet produced,” he said, and are more tolerant of differences. “College students don’t believe that American culture is inherently superior to the cultures of Africa” and other parts of the world, he said.

Even though a growing proportion of Americans — possibly 30 percent now — are earning less than they did in their previous jobs, a surprising number still say they believe in the American dream, he said. The definition has changed, however.

“We’re not only looking at a transformation of the American dream, but in many ways at a transformation of the American character,” he said. Instead of focusing on material wealth and professional status, people in their 20s and early 30s are more likely to seek a rewarding and spiritually-fulfilling life, he said.

Some of these “secular spiritualists” have already taken pay cuts and see little immediate hope of regaining their former earnings. Their attitude, he said, is, “God threw me lemons, so I may as well make lemonade.”

The Chronicle’s Leadership Forum continues here on Monday. —Katherine Mangan

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