Higher-Education Leaders Speak

By Rivard, Nicole | Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Higher-Education Leaders Speak


Rivard, Nicole, Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education


At the brink of a new century, Matrix polled leaders of higher-education institutions and asked: What do you think will be the biggest issues facing colleges and universities in the year 2000?

James R. Davis Professor of Higher Education and Adult Studies Program University of Denver Colorado

"If an issue is a policy or practice about which reasonable people may disagree, then the key issue for the year 2000 is how best to facilitate learning. In the 20th century we gained a huge amount of knowledge about how people learn and we developed new technologies to extend or assist learning. Unfortunately, we haven't learned to apply well what we already know. We teach in the most antiquated ways and with largely outdated assumptions about what needs to be taught and how to teach it.

"Probably the most important factor to affect teaching and learning is the information revolution itself. Easy access to well-packaged information through libraries and the Internet changes radically the role of professors and the needs of students. Information today is a dollar a ton, and there is a veritable deluge of it. Gathering information today may be compared to taking a cup of water from Niagara Falls and then knowing what to do with it once you have it. The teacher, therefore, is less a dispenser of information (as in the past) than a facilitator of thinking and feeling processes. Teachers will gradually see that this is their new role, but they will struggle to play it skillfully and comfortably. The real challenge, however, will be for students to move away from a passive role to the more active role of managing their own learning. (See James Davis and Adelaide Davis, Managing Your Own Learning, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, March 2000.)

"The professor's new role is ultimately to teach students how to learn. The student's role is to become an expert learner. In the years ahead there will be enormous turmoil and conflict about the issue of teaching and learning--the fundamental mission of colleges and universities. The information age came upon us too quickly and has left us, professors and students, enormously confused about what we are supposed to do together."

Carol A. Cartwright President Kent State University Ohio

"Public colleges and universities must continue to answer calls for accountability from taxpayers and the legislators who serve them. Kent State University's eight campuses are responding to these calls by creating programs to keep higher education affordable (e.g., we allow students and families to pay for tuition as they would other big-ticket items: with a down payment and fixed, monthly installments); by working closely with the private sector to build programs that provide the education and skills needed by students, employers, and communities to compete successfully in a knowledge-driven society; by engaging in scholarship that addresses authentic community needs from increasibg literacy to decreasing pollution; by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs and events that enrich the quality of life in the region we serve; and by generating and applying knowledge about democratic ideals from tolerance to nonviolent change.

"Many efforts to accomplish the latter are the legacy of the shootings at Kent State that left four students dead and nine wounded. This year, as the university marks the 30th commemoration of that tragedy, the need to promote and preserve our democratic values is as compelling as it proved to be in 1970. Thus, we established an annual symposium focusing on democratic values to complement the research and outreach of our Center for Applied Conflict Management and Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence. As colleges and universities look to a new century of service, the public is looking to us to help ensure that events from Kent State to Columbine are never repeated."

Paul J. LeBlanc President Marlboro College Vermont

"The biggest challenge our institutions face is configuring ourselves to compete and thrive in the emerging and tumultuous time which our industry has just now entered. …

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