December 28 2018

We believe—and have seen in action—key areas around which pivots happen. We believe these pivot points offer the most significant opportunities for institutional transformation and carry the greatest urgency for needed change:

  1. Courageous Leadership: Championing Disruption, Risk, and Innovation — With a richly shared vision between the president and the board, leaders across campus focused on change, and a reimagining of traditional structures of decision-making, the new university can shift the institutional culture from one of stasis to one of continuous innovation, change, and growth.
  2. The Student at the Center: Transforming Learning for the Future — The rapid evolution of technology, the availability of vast quantities of data, ever-expanding research on how people learn and process differently, and the amount of information at every learner’s fingertips begs critical questions about how we educate our students for a future we cannot yet fully comprehend; institutions must adapt and change accordingly.
  3. No Margin, No Mission: Running a University in the Black — In order for us to be responsible to our missions and the students of the future, we must radically transform our approach to the business of our institutions, with intense focus on prioritizing strategy, centralizing decision-making, building partnerships, and realigning budgetary processes with difference-making initiatives.
  4. The Explosion of Adult Education: Meetings Society’s Needs — As technology and artificial intelligence transform the workplace, and thirty to forty million workers across the United States will require continuous education to remain gainfully employed, institutions of higher learning face a critical imperative to invest in all types of learners, elevating individuals, families, and communities in the process.
  5. Opportunity and Inclusion: Diversifying the Campus Culture — The backgrounds of students entering higher education is changing rapidly, becoming more and more diverse across lines of race, ethnicity, religion, ability and disability, socioeconomic status, gender expression, and sexual orientation; colleges and universities must acknowledge that these diverse groups have been historically limited in their access to higher education and/or not appropriately supported and served once on campus, and place intentional focus on creating inclusive campus communities to meet the needs of these diverse learners.

The New University: Institutional Stories

Throughout the blog series, as well as in the book Pivot: A Vision for the New University, we talk about the “new university.” What we envision is in some respects a kind of learning utopia: physical and virtual spaces of higher learning reimagined with student learning, access, innovation, relevance, and sustainability at their very core. We envision that the new university will educate students of all ages, and that they will be at the center of learning and teaching. The ability to guide students toward a fulfilling life with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace and the values they need to be citizens of the world will be at the center of this utopia. It may be that no one institution can achieve this vision in totality, but we believe all institutions should undertake their own blue-sky reimagining and pivot toward it. The colleges and universities we introduce in our blogs and book have pivoted in this way—powerfully, with intention, and with measurable results.

Our interactions with the presidents of the four institutions introduced here, and other courageous leaders like them, have been central to our thinking. Their journeys have not been without challenges and failures, but these presidents did not settle for incremental change. They looked carefully at what was ahead and pivoted. Watching these presidents and their teams lead strategically, all in ways unique to their style and institutional missions, renewed our hope that all colleges and universities have an opportunity to be more innovative than they have ever been.

Each of these institutions recognizes that innovation and change are not smooth or simple paths to follow, because, in so many cases, there is no precedent—they are the trailblazers. Yet all of these leaders believe that it is worth the risk to keep trying, to break the mold, and to continually recommit to new ways of serving their students. In the end, it all comes back to courageous leadership. Courage lives at the heart of innovation, risk, and change, and our leaders will have to take the leap of faith that courage demands.

Stay with us for our full Pivot blog series to learn more about these presidents and the institutions they lead, as well as the inspiring pivots they have made to stay viable, relevant, and strong. 

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