May 3, 2023 – Future of Work

CKF at ASU-GSV Summit 2023: Putting purpose at the center of learning and work


Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) Executive Director Ryan Stowers recently joined top education innovators from all over the world at the ASU-GSV Summit 2023.

ASU-GSV Summit 2023 discusses importance of culture in postsecondary education

The conference featured a fireside chat between Stowers and Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, III, emeritus president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), regarding how postsecondary education can develop a learner’s unique potential and purpose. As UMBC’s leader for three decades, Hrabowski built an institution where people of diverse backgrounds could learn and become leaders.

Hrabowski heard messages about purpose from a young age. Growing up in Birmingham, Ala. during segregation, he listened as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at his church. Dr. King told the congregation, “Don’t let anyone else define who you are.” 

Hrabowski carried that message with him as an educator, creating a culture at UMBC that offered an expansive curriculum that allowed each individual learner to find and define their own unique aptitudes and passions.

What kind of culture leads to postsecondary education success?

Hrabowski’s legacy at UMBC is one of innovation. To honor that legacy in 2012 UMBC established the Hrabowski Fund for Innovation, which supports initiatives to enhance teaching and learning at UMBC, with specific emphasis on using innovative approaches to increase individual student success.

Hrabowski said educators have a “moral responsibility” to help students finish their degree and discover how they can uniquely contribute to society. To achieve this mission, Hrabowski said the country needs a postsecondary education culture of individual empowerment where:

  • Educators continually ask how they can be more effective
  • Learners and educators collaborate, not compete
  • Leaders evaluate their performance and are honest about how they are doing 
  • Learners engage in classes on a broad range of subject matter

“We need people who appreciate STEM and the humanities and arts,” Hrabowski said. “That broad thinking allows people to keep learning and asking questions. We want to give people the education that pushes them to be curious.”

ASU-GSV Summit 2023 panelists

Stowers also hosted a panel discussion that explored how to put purpose at the center of work and learning. Panelists were: 

  • Aspire Ability Founder and CEO Jon Mott  
  • Author and Co-Founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute Michael Horn 
  • Cara Collective President and CEO Kathleen St. Louis Caliento 
  • Schultz Family Foundation Managing Director of Special Initiatives Marie Groark 

The discussion challenged the audience to think differently about upskilling and learning programs and to value individuals over just skill-development or job placement. “Skills matter because they bring us closer to the individual. They help us better understand what an individual brings to the table,” Stowers said. “But they are not enough. … We have to help people find purpose in their lives.”

Find the full replay of the panel discussion here. You can watch Stowers’ conversation with Dr. Freeman Hrabowski here.