I am married, have three kids, a full-time job, teach as an adjunct professor, own a home, have paid off all my student loans, and am working toward my doctorate, and I am. . . a Millennial.

As a culture, we have started using the term “millennial” to mean “young.” Sadly, this term is also sometimes used as a negative word to explain away supposed (and often untrue) signs of laziness or as a way to tell someone they don’t really know how to “adult.”

In fact, the Millennial generation has been the topic of conversation for such a long time that we have failed to notice they have grown up and a new generation, GenZ, has taken their place as the young adults to pay attention to. So, before we carry the negative stereotype that young equals lazy on to a new generation, why don’t we take the time to actually learn about this group of teenagers and twenty-somethings and find out what they are all about.

Generation Z (GenZ or iGen) is roughly defined as a person born between the years 1995–2010. This means they are about 10-25 years old, prime high school and college student age. In fact, some of the older GenZs have already entered the workforce. I teach the American College Student course in the Student Personnel Administration Higher Education program here at Concordia University Wisconsin, and my class and I have had some fun and engaging conversations about how this young generation (our current American college student) has given us confidence for the future.

Here are five reasons to get excited about this GenZ:

  1. They know technology because technology is all they have ever known.
  2. They are educated, motivated, and well-behaved.
  3. They seek stability.
  4. They are tolerant, ethical, and culturally aware.
  5. They want to be heard.

Could this be the generation that creates great change? Perhaps we will finally see true acceptance of all cultures and diversity? Maybe they will become technology influencers who will change the way we work. Or the stability they seek could bring back the popularity of the nuclear family. I see lots of reasons to be excited about what this generation has to offer.

But, what is shaping GenZ?

Generations are often shaped by a moment in history or an event that had a lasting impression on the population at a given time. Millennials will most likely be able to tell you exactly where they were when 9/11 happened and the Greatest Generation (born from 1910-1929) saved every penny and never wasted food because they lived through the Great Depression.

For GenZ, school shootings are the norm. It is a sad reality that they have grown up with; active shooter drills are as common as tornado drills for these students.

GenZ has also always had instant and vast access to any information they want to know. Want to know the population of a city in Africa, Google it! Want to know what other movies your favorite actor is in, check out IMDB.

Lastly, the population of GenZ is extremely diverse and will most likely be the last generation where the majority is Caucasian. However, what is most interesting is that they don’t even see themselves as being diverse because for them, it is just the way they are—they tend not to dwell on the differences of others.

It goes without saying that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented time and I can’t help but wonder, is the current Coronavirus Pandemic a moment in history that will shape this generation? Could this rock their core need for stability? Perhaps it will propel their knowledge of technology even farther! Maybe this generation will provide us with the next great innovation in medical science. Only time will tell how and what kind of lasting impact this pandemic will have on our youth.

I hope that after learning a few quick facts about GenZ you too can see the potential for greatness that is currently stepping foot onto our college campuses across America. Can we now agree that youth does not equal lazy, but rather youth equals optimism? Maybe we can learn from our past experience with Millennials and, instead of focusing on shortcomings, focus on the promise of a bright future that I believe GenZ can bring us.

One thing that I know is that this generation has asked to be heard and I, for one, am ready to listen. Are you?

This post was written by Naomi Tiefel, Enrollment Services CRM Administrator and Adjunct Instructor for The American College.

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