The year was 1982. E.T. phoned home. Cable News Network, more familiar to most as CNN, was launched. Time magazine’s Man of the Year was, for the first time, given to a non-human: a computer. And the elders of the millennial generation were learning to crawl.
Spend a few moments on any college campus and you’ll come across members of this newest generation. Often described as collaborative, optimistic, open-minded, and achievement-oriented, these tech-savvy millennials have higher expectations (of themselves and others) than any generation before them, except perhaps the Silent Generation with which they share many of the same values.
The digital life
The ubiquitous white ear buds, razor-thin camera phones and other mobile gadgets are part of an arsenal of technological devices owned and carried by millennials. Digital technology gives this 25-and-under crowd a mobile way to stay connected to the Internet, and in a sense, their lives. Make them happy? With the click of the mouse, they’ll tell their friends. Disappoint them? They’ll tell the world.
The social scene
The Daily Show may draw millennials to the television, but don’t expect them to stay for long. A wide range of social networks – from Facebook to MySpace – provide ways for this generation to stay more connected to friends than ever before. Users can send messages, leave comments, upload pictures, upload videos and a myriad of other nifty things.
People get the impression that UMR students sit in their rooms on the Internet, isolated with no social interaction. But they’re prolific communicators who have more social interactions than me or you because they’re having conversations with peers across the country. Forget about email, which can be blocked by spam filters or have its delivery delayed.
Real-time interactions provided by IM (instant messaging) and text messaging are like oxygen to them – allowing virtual conversations to transpire as quickly as a face-to-face discussion. IM lets millennials know when their friends are online and allows several conversations to take place at once, even using several screen names.
The greater good
A number of violent events, like the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine High School shooting, and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, transpired during this generation’s formative years. From the ashes of these catastrophic events rose the re-emergence of the American hero. Although the surge of community-mindedness following 9/11 has slowed for many generational groups, it has remained strong for the impressionable millennials. The polar opposite of the cynical and pessimistic Gen-Xers (those born between 1961 and 1981), millennials are interested in the greater good: volunteering and making a difference in their local communities and across the globe. At UMR, the desire to help others is incorporated into the campus culture.
From capstone courses to extracurricular activities, students are asked to think broadly across disciplines and consider the human dimensions that are at the core of design challenges.
The profiles on the following pages will give you a cross-section of UMR’s millennials – a future student, a current student and a recent alumnus. From their homes in Iowa, Oklahoma and Florida, our profiles then join us online to talk about the stereotypes that exist about their generation.