Daily learning is essential to a successful career arc, no matter what the profession. By teaching students what makes for a prime learning environment, we can prepare them for a career path that includes constant evolution and improvement. The factor most essential to this learning environment is diversity.

When I first came to Rockwell Collins, I was part of a team that embraced difference. We were assigned a difficult task: to develop the new Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS), the first of its kind. It was daunting, especially considering that this was my first job out of college, and unlike many of my fellow software engineers, my concentration had been in biology and chemistry rather than radio or electrical engineering. I was surprised to discover that I was not alone. Many of the new hires came from diverse backgrounds, everything from genetics to psychology. When I asked my boss how he had assembled such a seemingly random group of people, he replied that what he was looking for was innovation, and innovation is born out of diversity.

If you’re looking for a different solution to a problem, you can’t continue to approach it with the same tools. By implementing programs that stress the importance of diversity, we can prepare students to create their own work environments of learning and innovation. This begins with the admission of students of different genders and racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

However, we must also go beyond the surface. Students should be encouraged to innovate in groups that include members with majors and concentrations different than their own. In the real world, people do not operate solely within the bubble of their own educational concentration. Students shouldn’t either. By exposing students to more group projects, and encouraging programs that foster cross-disciplinary interaction, we can give students the chance to realize for themselves the value of diversity when it comes to innovative solutions. With this realization will come an appreciation for diversity that will persist throughout their careers and extend to team creation. By creating an environment that encourages difference in thought and background, they will provide themselves with the necessary tools for innovation.