Music plays and inspirational messages and images scroll across a large screen in the Hayworth Fine Arts Center as freshmen crowd in to fill the seats. The discussion dies down as a video of a performance artist appears on the screen, and by the time the video is over, all eyes are on the stage as Dr. Nido Qubein begins class.
This is the scene from the President’s Freshman Seminar. On this day, Qubein is discussing presentation skills and the importance of presenting one’s self with professionalism and confidence. He interacts with the students, using humor, calling on volunteers to illustrate his points and using different forms of media to drive the message home.
These are lessons Qubein has shared with top executives around the country, and lessons he feels responsible to share with the students of High Point University through his freshman and senior seminars each week.
“I am with these students every day. I talk to them as they walk to class, and I watch them become people who lead lives of success and significance,” says Qubein. “I want to impart everything I can to our students by giving them the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to thrive after they finish their journey at HPU.”
The Value of Soft Skills
Qubein, who has led a successful career in business and professional speaking before becoming president of HPU in 2005, has long known something that career experts and scientific studies are now starting to talk about. Soft skills — interpersonal skills, team working skills and the ability to sell yourself and your ideas to employers — are all key to a successful career path. Forbes Magazine highlighted this in an interview with millennial career expert Dan Schawbel who says the biggest challenge for people in their 20s and early 30s looking for jobs is that they often lack these skills.
That’s where the President’s Seminars come in. He takes his time to speak to students twice per week by leading a freshman seminar in the fall and a senior seminar in the spring. During that time, he shares with students his experience in communication, leadership and how to impact the world.
“The president wants us to find meaning in our own lives and the lives of others,” says freshman Elizabeth Reichart. “I leave his seminar each week feeling like I can conquer the world with the lessons I’ve learned and the tools President Qubein has given me to share those lessons.”
During the freshman seminar, Qubein focuses on topics that new students can benefit from immediately, such as time management and fiscal literacy. For seniors on the brink of graduation, he switches his focus to managing professional relationships and tackling life after college.
“The senior seminar was a great supplement to what we learned as freshmen,” says Dan Kissel, a 2013 graduate now working at Bank of NY Mellon. “Dr. Qubein’s lessons and stories about how to make success a reality were invaluable to me. Guest speakers he brought in also offered advice from individuals around the world. This was a course I always looked forward to attending and never failed to leave motivated and empowered.”
This is just one example of how students benefit from having a university president who believes in holistic education. The seminar not only teaches students how to think critically and creatively, but also gives them the practical skills they need to function in the real world.
“We are not preparing students for the world as it is,” says Qubein. “We are preparing them for the world as it is going to be. It’s an unfortunate truth that many people don’t realize the value of skills like managing your time effectively, giving back to your community and knowing how to connect and engage with people around you. But at HPU, we highlight these skills. That gives us an opportunity to send our graduates into the world fully prepared.”