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UW-Madison’s Hora receives national book honor from AAC&U for ‘Beyond the Skills Gap’

January 25, 2018

A recent publication from UW-Madison’s Matthew Hora is being honored by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) with its 2018 Frederic W. Ness Book Award, which is given to the work that best contributes to the understanding and improvement of liberal education.

Hora is being recognized for “Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work.” The book explores how educators can ensure that graduates are adequately prepared for the future, challenging the argument that sluggish economic growth is due to a higher education system insufficiently attuned to workplace needs, with the solution being more specialized technical training and fewer liberal arts graduates.

Beyond the Skills GapHora is an assistant professor of adult and higher education in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies at UW–Madison, and is an affiliate with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. Hora is also a research scientist with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), and the director of UW-Madison’s Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT), which is housed within WCER. Hora wrote the book with Ross J. Benbow, an associate researcher with WCER, and Amanda K. Oleson, an education scholar focused on workforce pathways.

Hora is being presented with the award at AAC&U’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 25 Washington, DC.

The book’s authors challenge this conception of the “skills gap,” highlighting instead the value of broader twenty-first-century skills in postsecondary education. In the book, the authors advocate for a system in which employers share responsibility along with the education sector to serve the collective needs of the economy, society, and students. Beyond the Skills Gap emphasizes the critical role of educational practice and design in preparing students for the workforce and ensuring that future employees develop robust technical expertise, cultivate problem-solving and communication skills, transfer abstract knowledge to real-world situations, and foster a lifelong aptitude for self-directed learning. 

“We are thrilled and honored to receive the Ness Award. We hope that our research draws attention to the need to invest in our postsecondary teaching workforce, who are on the frontlines cultivating the transferable and disciplinary habits of mind that employers and a democratic society desperately need,” Hora says in this AAC&U news release announcing the award.

This year’s Ness award winner was selected by a committee of higher education leaders including William Craft (chair), President of Concordia College; Royce Engstrom, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Montana; and Leslie Wong, President of San Francisco State University.

Matt Hora
“Beyond the Skills Gap” began not as a polemic, but as a research project to discern the genuine workforce skills and habits of mind that can drive a strong economy, engaged democracy, and individual flourishing,” Craft says in the news release. “That research focus makes the book’s conclusions—about the virtues of liberal learning and what its authors call an education ‘more grounded, more authentic, and more transferable’—all the more compelling.”

The Ness Book Award was established by AAC&U in 1979 to honor AAC&U President Emeritus Frederic W. Ness.

For more information, visit: “Beyond the Skills Gap: Preparing College Students for Life and Work." 

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy.

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