George Bernard Shaw said "we are made wise not by the recollections of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."
Colleges and universities across the country are continuously struggling with the past and future challenges that are unique to the academic enterprise. There is a sense among many academicians, as well as others outside the academy, that there is a need to build coherent curricula that is user friendly for both student learning and faculty productivity; the need to establish professional boundaries for educational collaboration between and among publics on and off campus; the need to create institutional cohesion and interdependence of resources toward the university or college mission; and finally, the need to connect curriculum aims with teaching strategies, students with faculty, the academy with the economy, and fiscal, human, technological and environmental resources toward the educational centrality and mission of the institution.
This synopsis describes how the York College Academic Vice President plans, and other chief academic officers could plan, to meet the challenges of the 1990's, at a time when resourcefulness, vision, and planning are viewed by many as among the necessary ingredients for contemporary leadership and institutional change. The following outlines some of the more compelling areas to consider for initiating and implementing a vision for institutional success. They represent hopefully thought-provoking issues to consider for readers interested in getting a synopsis of what it may take for the chief academic officer to be successful today and tomorrow on the college campus.
Renewing the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Experience: To act as a catalyst for providing undergraduate programs that develop student-centered competencies in critical thinking, leadership empowerment, intellectual inquiry, ethical values, human development, and most importantly, lifelong "discovery" - through the ongoing development of educational forums for discussion, dialogue, debate and deliberation. After all, it was Nobel Laureate, Albert Szentgyorgyi who metaphorically stated that "discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else, but thinking something different." This metaphor applies to physics as well as painting; biology as well as business; music as well as mathematics; English as well as engineering; art as well as accounting; language as well as literature; and history as well as humanities. Current and future chief academic officers might also consider doing something that we often fail to do as leaders - and that is, looking "inward." We all know from our own personal experiences during undergraduate studies what made us successful then as students to be successful now as academicians. What did that professor provide through the preceptorial advice that helped us make the decision for the academic major? What interactive classroom experience stimulated us to conduct research on our own? What was the role of academic advising and student services in providing support programs on our behalf? What was the title of that intriguing lecture or literature that held our attention and persuaded us to view the world so critically? And finally, how did the general education and disciplined-centered curricula bridge the learning gaps to foster the whole academic experience?
Cultivating Systemic Leadership: To facilitate the productive collaboration between sectors representing business, industry, government, education and other learning communities toward the mutual benefit of the academy and the economy, particularly in the urban milieu - utilizing skills in consensus building, participatory leadership and conflict resolution. It was the 29 year old President Robert Hutchins at the University of Chicago who once noted that "a university must be more than a collection of departments that are jointly connected by a mutual heating system." That heating system now extends beyond the perimeters of the collegiate campus and into the community, the economy, and the global market place. Herein lies the challenge of looking "outward." As human beings we are finding out more and more that despite our similarities and differences, we are connected in life by an invisible web within the universe.
Facilitating Faculty Renewal and Development: To coordinate, in conjunction with other campus academic leaders, the preservation and protection of academic freedom, the decentralization of interdisciplinary initiatives to foster genuine intellectual diversity, and the integrity of faculty in academic research, superior teaching, community service and service to the collegiate environment. Several academic researchers have warned that nearly half of the professorate will be retiring at the turn of the century. This demographic phenomena will allow the forward-thinking chief academic officer to recruit, retain, and renew faculty within the academy. We must also, however, make strides and attempts in tapping those retiring human resources while we have them. To paraphrase Alex Haley, author of Roots and Queen, "every time we lose the old, we lose a library."
Practicing Sound Resource Management: To coordinate the designation and distribution of fiscal, human, facility, technological and other administrative resources for meeting the goals promulgated in the college or university mission - balancing both effectiveness and efficiency. We must admit as leaders that frequently short-term objectives to meet efficiency do not necessarily meet long-term effectiveness. Today's chief academic officer must exercise creative and innovative ideas for resource allocation. This will require us to make tough decisions at a time when we are receiving increasing public scrutiny, criticism about what we do in the academy, and are expected to "do more with less."
Enhancing Pedagogical and Andragogical Delivery: To foster the unique pedagogical and andragogical deliveries of faculty in the classrooms through innovative exploration, infusion and integration of emerging educational technologies and state-of-the-art teaching methods. Another demographic trend that confronts our enterprise is the two-fold population transformation of an increase in older students and ethnic students on our college campuses. These two trends will require us to take a close look at how we teach, what we teach, when we teach and why we teach. We may find that, for instance, it will become increasingly paramount for us to exercise the teaching strategies inherited in "andragogy" versus traditional pedagogy and the conventional socratic teaching method. This particular area may prove to be one of the most exciting endeavors for the chief academic officer concerned about learning styles and teaching modalities.
Fostering the Academic climate & Culture: To serve as a leader in the promotion and advocacy for the user friendly, collegiate culture that is conducive to the teaching and learning process through the ongoing development of students and productivity of faculty. A definition that I use to describe culture was cited by Daniel Arnold and Lewis Capella, over a decade ago when describing organizational culture; that is, "the way we do things round here." We should ask ourselves, on behalf of the students to whom we serve, the following question: How do we do things around our college campuses? Do we really provide the best possible means for preparation for the rapidly changing world? Do we extend and exercise the necessary sensitivity and understanding to individual students-and faculty for that matter-who are engaged in the academic enterprise? The answers to these questions may help us with establishing the imperative, user-friendly culture and academic climate for educational success.
Creating a Campus as a Microcosm of Society: To help center the campus as a microcosm of the greater society by promoting and developing instructional programs that strengthen student skills for career advancement, retraining, renewal, and revitalization. Thus, promoting an environment of personal respect, circular communication, cultural diversity, and global interdependence. Hence, as President Mary McPherson of Bryn Mawr once profoundly recognized, "the world outside higher education is changing, therefore the world inside higher education must change as well." This area augments the above pedagogical delivery statement. Moreover, there are alot of things about the business environment that could help us provide a better teaching environment for students. Likewise, there are many things we could teach the world of business about the work environment. They key here, though, is to initiate discourse for an understanding that helps each sector teach as a microcosm of the greater society.
Naturally, since both our classrooms and our workplaces are increasing with human diversity, it will become increasingly important for both sectors to embrace interactive deliberation as a forum of "finding truth" - something we say we do all the time in the academic enterprise.
Dr Stevenson is Vice President of York College.…