Off to Cambridge
One of the great opportunities I have as president of UPCEA is that I am invited to attend the annual meetings of our sister associations, CAUCE and UALL. Last summer I joined our colleagues in Canada for their annual conference in Toronto, where they explored sustainability with excellent keynote and session presentations. For more about the CAUCE meeting https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/greetings-from-the-cauce-meeting/.
This weekend I am off to Cambridge for the UALL Annual Conference with the theme “Higher Education for the social good? The place of lifelong learning.” Having never been to Cambridge, I am very excited to have the opportunity to simply walk their historic grounds and to spend time with my European colleagues.
In addition to inviting me to the UALL annual meeting, I have the honor to have been asked to deliver a keynote address as part of the meeting. To say the least, I am more than just a little anxious to be speaking in front of my colleagues, because I truly wonder what I can address where those in the audience surely have more experience and expertise than I.
My anxiety notwithstanding, the title for my address is Why Engagement is Critical to the Future Success of the 21st Century Colleges and Universities.
As I look at the future of higher education, I am confident that the most relevant and great higher education institutions will be those that engage with their communities in addressing pressing issues as perceived by the community. And when I think about community, I mean not just our local community but also our global community.
Why do we engage? We engage first and foremost because we have a moral obligation as institutions of higher education to make our resources available to the community to assist with addressing pressing issues. Secondly, we benefit as institutions by engaging because true engagement is a reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship. Each of us bring strengths to the table, and we all benefit by leveraging these strengths.
We engage because there are pressing social and economic issues where higher education holds the key. For example, economically we know the unemployment rate is doubled for those who do not have college experience, and we also know that those with college degrees tend to be more civically involved including voting and volunteerism.
How do we engage? When I think about how we engage, I go back to the Forays or the 4 A’s that is the tag line for this blog. I engage by first being an advocate for lifelong learning and learners. As a continuing professional educator, I also advocate for the accessibility and affordability of education. Quite honestly, what drives me as a professional is continuously seeking the answer to how I can make education available to more people and if possible make it more affordable. And I advocate for accountability — are we really doing what we said we would do and are students learning what we hope they do.
Another way that we engage as professional continuing educators is through innovation. I have believed and often said that our units, whether they be called Outreach and Engagement or Continuing Education, must be the Research and Development arms of our institutions. Why? Because we deal in a market environment and we are continually looking for more efficient and effective ways of making education accessible.
I believe, and I’ve talked about this in a previous blog post, https://shaeffersforays.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/is-the-collegeuniversity-model-sustainable/ that we are well positioned to take advantage of the disruptive technology. We are what Michael Staton calls the “survival guide” for our institutions, if and when the current model of higher education bursts. We are positioned to lead the disruption because we are using new business models, new technologies, and we use creative program development to make education accessible and affordable.
When I think about the importance of being an engaged institution, this importance is only magnified when I think about being a member of the global community. The need to provide the opportunities and promise of education to those in need on a global basis is the highest service we can provide as institutions of higher education.
With this in mind, I’ve no doubt that our associations must be leaders in encouraging engagement and we must find a way to bring a collective voice in leading the engagement of our associations and our institutions.