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Beloit College's Mindset List: Clues to Class of 2017

5:50 AM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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This year's incoming college freshmen were babies starting to crawl about the same time news bulletins started crawling across the bottom of TV screens.

That is among tidbits about the worldview of first-year college students highlighted in the new Beloit College Mindset List, out Tuesday from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.

The list, which gives a glimpse of the worldview of each new college class, emphasizes that the Class of 2017, most of them born in 1995, have wholly embraced technology.

Ron Nief and Tom McBride compile the annual lists by looking at magazines, newspapers and television for cultural events, historical moments and social trends. They also get suggestions for items on the list's Facebook page.

"A third of the list has to do with technology," says Nief, the college's former director of public affairs. For example, the list points out that they the Class of 2017 has never known a time when certain ubiquitous technologies didn't exist: "Having a chat has seldom involved talking," it says. And "with GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address."

McBride, a Beloit professor of English and humanities, says the list reflects a sharing generation. The members of this generation share information about themselves through Facebook and other social media, and they share transportation by carpooling and using public transportation. "They are multicultural -- they have a shared notion of national identity," he adds. "They have non-sectarian views -- they have an ecumenical sense of spirituality."

Jeffrey Cole, director of USC Annenberg's Center for the Digital Future in Los Angeles, agrees that technology is a central part of the lives of this generation.

"They are much less interested in voice communication," Cole says. "They believe it is rude to call somebody unannounced. When they do talk by voice, it is usually arranged by texting, IMing or Facebook."

The list was created in 1998 as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, the college says. Through the years, it became an increasingly popular "cheat sheet" for others about the worldview of each new freshman class.

McBride says the list sparks conversations between generations on campuses and in homes.

"It is an icebreaker," he adds. "It's a way of personalizing history."

Top 5 Items on Mindset List

1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents' weekend. (The rappers' daughters were born in 1995. They don't attend Beloit College.)

2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.

3. GM means food that is genetically modified.

4. As they started to crawl, so did the news across the bottom of the television screen.

5. "Dude" has never had a negative tone.

Cathy Payne, USA TODAY