Millennial writer, filmmaker and advocate David Burstein spoke to Belmont students, faculty and administrators about how current students in higher education are shaping society as well as how universities are lagging behind in catering to their needs during a Monday convocation lecture.
The term “millennial” is used to describe the more than 80 million people between ages 18 and 33, who grew up sheltered, pressured to achieve and technology savvy.
Millennials have been called entitled, narcissistic, “the worst employees in history,” “trophy kids” and even “the dumbest generation.” Burstein argues the Millennial Generation’s unique blend of civic idealism and savvy pragmatism, combined with their seamless ability to navigate the 21st century world, enables them to address the world’s long-term challenges.
His solution to the negative press surrounding the Millennial Generation is to promote positive generalizations. Some 49 percent of millennials consider themselves entrepreneurs or plan to start a business. Eighty-nine percent of millennials will switch brands based on how company values align with their morals, Burnstein said, which explains the increasing number of Fortune 500 companies with socially responsible business choices.
“It struck me that there is an importance of someone within this generation sharing the perspectives of this generation” Burnstein said. He traveled the country and conducted interviews with millennials for his newly released book, Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World, which examines how the Millennial Generation is impacting politics, business, technology and culture. “We’re not monolithic. We don’t all think the same things and act the same way, but we break things down into generations to see how things are changing in the way people behave.”
He also emphasized the Millennial Generation is the first to have lower salaries than its parents. Car and home ownership, marriage and birth rates are all down within this age group, Burnstein said, because millennials are focused on establishing love, partnerships and relationships within their communities.
“They are focused on living lives of purpose and meaning rather than living a life to exploit as much money as humanly possible,” he said.
Still universities are having a difficult time reaching their Millennial Generation students. For instance, many professors order students to power down laptops and cell phones and assume students are not listening if they are clicking away during class. Instead, Burnstein said professors should use the electronics to engage students through Twitter feeds projected on the wall during class and chat rooms to further the course discussion and draw questions from lectures. He also encouraged faculty to assign “unstructured projects that force (students) to interface with the real world.”