Fighting the Good Fight
The September 4, 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education had an op-ed piece written by Murray Block called “My 64 Years of Fighting for Innovation.” As I read this piece I couldn’t help but think that Mr. Block’s 64 years of fighting for innovation represent the good fight we all share in continuing and professional education.
Like many of you, I have a great belief in the power of education and how education can assist people in reaching not only their educational goals but also their life goals. Mr. Block says it well: “In each of my jobs, I believed I was working to strengthen higher education for students.”
For me, this is all about the students. It is all about those we serve. It is all about those who would not have access to higher education if there were not programs delivered in alternative formats whether they be evening, weekend, blended, or online programs.
We keep up the good fight as Mr. Block indicates, knowing we are reaching a vital segment of our learning population: those adults without the resources for traditional college programs; those who needed to support a family while learning; those who were seeking a faster vocational path to the work force.
And as we do this, we continue to be challenged by our universities, regional accreditors, and the DOE as to the efficacy of our offerings. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the scrutiny because it results in a better product and thus enhanced learning for our students. We’ve taken on this challenge and as Mr. Block reminds us, we must prove and are proving ourselves through the success of our students. In the end we share the mission that “advocacy for an educational program serving working adults, with a nontraditional learning model, is my [our] daily work.”
Being on (what some would call) the fringe of higher education, and being the lead advocate on our campus for new learning models that serve students unable to come to our campus, takes a great deal effort because we are “swimming against the traditional tide” of academia. I do appreciate the wisdom of Mr. Block: “What I have learned from my years in education, and in life, is that swimming against the traditional tide can result in muscle power, acceptance, and, eventually, a warm embrace.”
Over time our advocacy has not only raised the national awareness of a whole new population of learners but also the introduction of innovative teaching/learning models. In the end, “Perseverance pays, particularly when it comes to finding ways to provide education for adults who want to learn.”
It is fitting that I am dedicating this blog post to a friend and colleague, Dr. John Noftsinger, who died suddenly last week. John spent his career advocating for those beyond our campus, and he often found himself swimming against the tide of tradition in introducing programs and centers that served the greater public. We will miss him and thank you John for fighting the good fight.