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Americans Challenged by ‘Flat World’ UTSI Professor Says in Lunch Seminar

Innovation, smart thinking, and a thirst for education are vital if Americans are to cope with the fast changes brought on by a “flattening of competition” throughout the world, a University of Tennessee Space Institute professor believes.

“This is a competitive challenge for Americans,” said Gregory Sedrick, on Dec. 5 in the first of planned free monthly luncheon seminars at UTSI. “It is bad news for Americans if we don’t step up to the challenge.”

He cited some positive ways that drastic changes make it possible for people to collaborate on a world-wide basis. For instance, he said that at the same time “outsourcing” caused a loss of many jobs in the United States, 250,000 new higher paying, supporting jobs were created.

While India and China are graduating far more engineering students, Sedrick said the U.S. still has the highest quality engineers in the world, adding, “The question is, how long?” He also noted that “engineering” does not have the same definition in India and China as in the U.S. For instance, he cited studies showing that only 25 percent of India’s three hundred thousand engineering graduates are ready to work in outsourcing jobs, and only 10 percent of China’s 500,000 engineering graduates are qualified for jobs in the new economy upon graduation.

Sedrick, program chair for UTSI’s graduate program in Industrial Engineering with an Engineering Management concentration, drew from Thomas Friedman’s recent book, “The World Is Flat,” in which Friedman stresses that the democratization and integration of technology and economic systems have made the competitive world flat.

The professor cited ten reasons for the drastic changes and suggested the path to success lies in three actions: remaining connected, raising “terrific children” and instilling in them the value of life-long learning. He cautioned against “protectionism” as a solution to the problem, saying, “We can’t protect ourselves against this threat by legislation.”

The fall of the Berlin wall, which allowed the spread of technology worldwide, the “open window” provided by Microsoft, and “public view” made possible when Netscape became public, providing sudden access to everyone, opened the door for .world-wide collaboration, Sedrick said.

“Software enabled us to collaborate anywhere – Tennessee, Japan, India…” Sedrick said. As an example of “open sourcing,” he cited on-line “encyclopedia” where anyone with at least two sources can contribute and “suddenly you’re collaborating world wide.”

Urging his listeners to “remain connected,” Sedrick and invited them to take advantage of UTSI’s help. He said the Institute’s distant education program reaches graduate students throughout Tennessee and in “almost every state in the union” as well as to many other parts of the world.

The speaker emphasized the urgent need to re-educate the unskilled in the United States and to develop cyber infrastructure where needed.

Becky Stines, director of Continuing Education at UTSI, introduced Sedrick after Donald C. Daniel, UT associate vice president and UTSI chief operating officer, welcomed those attending. Stines recently initiated the “Lessons From the Lake” seminars. Plans are to invite individuals from area industries, Chambers of Commerce, Arnold Engineering Development Center and other groups to lead future seminars. Persons planning to attend the seminars are asked to notify Director Stines at (931) 393-7276 or