An educator’s thoughts on ‘Generation Y’

Craig Miller has seen young people, including millennials, come and go in his classes for more than a decade. As an associate professor of history and political science at Pennsylvania College of Technology, he’s formed some ideas about them.

Does he think they are somehow different from past generations?

“In some ways, they are,” he said.

To be sure, their familiarity with a new and growing technology is one stark contrast to those of their parents and grandparents.

A generation that grew up in what he called “a post 9/11 world” seems just as willing to work hard and perhaps dream harder than past generations.

“I love working with this generation because they have such a different perspective on things,” he said.

He sees many students who are more interested in being happy and fulfilled than just getting a job.

And yet, he can’t say that they are particularly eager to start their own businesses.

“In my experience, millennials tend to be less likely to strike out on their own. That is not to say they are not risk takers,” he said. “They want to work. They are willing to work. They don’t want to start their own business from scratch. Some of my students will end

up in corporations, but many more in small businesses.”

It’s a generation, he said, that seems very sensitive to the feelings of others.

“They have been socialized to not say the wrong things,” he said.

They deal better, Miller said, with diversity and seem less concerned with differences that separate people than did previous generations.

“I think this generation is scared to death of offending anyone,” he said.

On the other hand, social media and the internet have perhaps led to some degree of isolation and may even have helped create what he called “a general state of confusion.”

“They cannot seem to navigate the information that comes at them, although they are savvy at communicating, they don’t seem savvy about discerning it,” he said.

With perhaps more choices than ever to consider, from a life and career standpoint, do millennials become overwhelmed?

“It seems they might not be able to deal with competition,” he said. “It’s hard to say how much they have been coddled. I will say that one thing I noticed is that this generation, when they have a chance to work together, they thrive on it. I wonder if it’s because they rarely do it anymore.”