50 Voices of the Future: Ed Abeyta on preparing students for success in college and beyond

In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

As the job market changes, so, too, must education. The impact of technology has an immense impact not only on our everyday lives but on learning and teaching as well. Innovation is pushing the idea of personalized education in order to support students’ individual talents and abilities. It’s a concept Ed Abeyta has supported for many years. As the assistant dean for community engagement and director of pre-collegiate programs at UC San Diego Extension, Abeyta has worked to provide students opportunities to prepare themselves for success in college – and beyond.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

Never before has it been so important to inspire the next generation to prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist in the workforce. We used to ask children what they want to be when they grow up, but today we should be asking them what big problem they wish to solve and how we can provide the tools they will need to solve it. My work seeks to implement sustainable approaches to connect UC San Diego resources to the community we serve. Some examples include test preparation, STEAM, short for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, educational programs, lower division college courses, parent college preparation workshops and much more.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

More than ever, we are learning that each student has unique talents and abilities. Our job as educators is to unlock the genius in each student through assessment tools, like the Strengths Finder, which helps identify specific talents and skills. A funny thing happens when students learn about their own unique talents and then are able to connect those talents with a vision of what they’d like to do with their lives. Already San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten has taken the lead in making sure this approach is integrated into our local district. Our pre-college department has been a key partner in this effort by hosting training and development sessions for teachers and counselors.

 (3) What’s the next big thing?

So much effort has been put into providing Advanced Placement (AP) courses for high school students to elevate the level of their education. We believe there is an opportunity to provide more practical skills by offering students the ability to earn a professional or specialized certificate in emerging STEAM disciplines. This approach enables students to receive not only their diploma but also a certificate in an applied skill area. More than ever we need to provide transformational experiences for young adults to be inspired and create a sense of vision for their future.

 (4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

Our efforts are strategically disruptive in an attempt to explore new approaches to support our school districts and industry partners in our community. A number of years ago we added the arts to STEM, which has already made an impact on education not only here but throughout the country. This effort has shaped how our teachers approach education in the classroom via project-based learning. In addition, a strategic pre-college strategic approach to learning enables us to provide access to many talented young adults – regardless of their economic situation or background.

 (5) Hop into your time machine … what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Fifty years from now UC San Diego will continue to be the world command center and think tank for solving tomorrow’s problems and producing students who are not only intelligent but important members of our civic society.

To find out more about UC San Diego Extension’s pre-college programs, visit http://precollege.ucsd.edu/.

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