Rolling out the Red Carpet

I welcome you to my blog and hope that you will like the tour. Please leave your footmarks with comments and feedback. This will through and through enhance my knowledge and profundity of thought. Enjoy! Asif J. Mir

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Evolution to Academic Excellence

In 21st century there is a need to develop a new entity in higher education - one that educates and develops graduates for meeting the challenges of this century. Such an institution must emphasize the creation and development of knowledge into practical, sustainable solutions to today's problems, and the commercialization of those solutions to create wealth. This must be done within a learning community that emphasizes communication and teaming skills leading to creative problem solving and within an environment that emphasizes a sound appreciation of humanity’s ethical and moral principles. Anthony G. Collins, President of Clarkson University, has expressed this in: “The Evolution to Academic Excellence.”

He asserts that with the advent of the industrial revolution during the nineteenth century, some liberal arts institutions added faculties that supported economic growth and spurred business development. At the same time, technological institutes sprang into action to create manufacturing professionals and some colleges even specialized in the art of business itself. After WWII a new emphasis began to emerge on research - the creation of scientific knowledge.

Those who have a vision to track the process of economic development – the connection of science to engineering to business coupled with liberal arts to provide the humanistic elements are best suited to create this type of institution. Ideally this type of institution would have engineering at the core of its being and value interdisciplinary activity rather than a culture that wants to retain disciplinary purity. The very interdisciplinary intellectual capacity and fundamental mathematics and sciences needed for engineering, technology and business degrees create the academic institution of the future.

General Francis Walker, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology once said: “In the present stage of social and industrial change, change almost bewildering in the rapidity of its movement and in the extent of the field over which it is taking place, it is most reasonable to believe that great gaps exist between the public needs and the supply of those needs by the existing institutions of learning. As a result of their freedom from obligation to the general system of education, they not only will be at liberty, but they will be strongly impelled to search out those real needs of the people in the matter of education which are at present unsupplied. It is essential to this function that they should remain in a state of flux; open to all impressions; mobile under all influences; not too soon assuming that they have found their ultimate resting place and have taken on their distinctive character.”

The mission of the institution has to be of graduating and developing students who lead and practice technology. Our focus must be on this “product.” While we must recognize the influence of nanotechnology, we have to fully grasp that “technology” and also the engineering to embrace a new knowledge-age definition that includes biotechnology and info-technology. We have to broaden our vision of technology to include contributions from the life sciences, to embrace the vitality of new disciplines within engineering, and to appreciate how businesses operate with the sophistication of integrated technology systems.

We have not recognized the dramatic changes in demographics - the changing fraction of underrepresented individuals, the geographic shifts in population centers, the socioeconomic profile of our constituents - nor have we fully recognized the need to introduce new majors to draw more women into the technological workforce so that their talents can be developed and utilized. In short, we need to and should be obligated to deliver education that is appealing to a broader range of potential students.

In addition to lagging behind in reacting to changes in student interest, the marketplace, and the demands of employers, we have failed to react to the roles our educational institutions must play in the economy. We must now recognize that the creation of knowledge can no longer be our end goal. We must also develop intellectual property, transferring technology to the marketplace, and become a central part of the economic enterprise that values innovation, creativity and creates wealth. Implicit in this direction is the development of research at all levels of the institution.

Given this unsettling background of an institution dependent upon its external environment, our institutions must revitalize higher learning in order to provide a more comprehensive, unique image that remains true to core mission and values.

The students ought to know that they are the center of the educational process and all academic staff demonstrates an unparalleled commitment to creating a person-to-person connection within our living, research and learning environments. The faculty needs to collaborate, innovate and create knowledge across disciplinary boundaries and educate students to have a particular appreciation for the opportunities that lie at the intersection of traditional disciplines.

Our campus community must stimulate the intellectual environment that attracts a diverse pool of exceptionally talented women and men who will rise to be leaders of the 21st century with the passion to create enterprises that benefit society.

The evolving strengths and vision for the future must intersect precisely with the growing technological needs of the society – a society that must depend upon a workforce capable of creating, adapting and managing technology regardless of discipline of study or natural individual talents.

To fulfill this vision for academic excellence, our educational institutions should uniquely position to further stake their legacy to society based on commitment to technology and leadership in marrying coursework, research and extracurricular pursuits in engineering, business, science, health sciences and arts.

We should create a distinctive place in the higher education order as attainable as we each ought to continue to promote and explore innovative ways to arrange the basic building blocks of traditional fields of study to reflect new avenues for interdisciplinary education, research breakthroughs, and solutions for society.

Our education system is a pack of confusion disorder. Can we transform it for delivering academic excellence as envisioned by Anthony G. Collins? (