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What will you be when you grow up?

Adults ask, “what will you be when you grow up?” When I was first asked, I said I wanted to be a chef – I think because I love to eat. Then, as time went by, I thought I would be a college professor or an historian. I cannot tell you where either of these notions came from. I had never known a professor or an historian. I think the idea of an historian may have come when a neighbor gave me a book, Russia and the West under Lenin and Stalin, by Wisconsin-native George F. Kennan. More important at this point in my life was my dad telling me, if I would just study, I could be anything I wanted to be.

Of course, it is not just our education that sets us up for our career. Our families, our communities, our teachers, our friends and neighbors, all have a significant impact on “what we will be.” Choosing is a great opportunity. However, our freedom of choice, our freedom to invent ourselves, is not without its limits.

Increasingly, you have a choice of jobs and careers – any job and any career – if you have a college education. According to a 2016 study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, “workers with a high school diploma or less hear about an economic recovery and wonder what people are talking about. Of the 7.2 million jobs lost in the recession, 5.6 million were jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less. These workers have recovered only 1 percent of those job losses over the past six years. This group also saw no growth among well-paying jobs with benefits.”[1]

Erik Sherman, writing in Forbes, emphasized the significance of the study:

“. . . There’s more to this as well when you think a bit. Ninety-nine percent of all jobs means exactly that. Not just intellectually challenging positions that require advanced training but virtually all work that has come onto the market.”[2] You can have the power to choose who you will be, providing you also make the choice to pursue education.

This is why WAICU’s mission is “Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities working together for educational opportunity.”

[No, I did not dream of becoming president of WAICU as I was growing up.]


Rolf Wegenke, Ph.D. President

[1] Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots, 2016.

[2] Sherman, E. (2016, July 2). College Educated Get All Post-Recession Jobs — Even Low-Pay Ones. Retrieved from