A recent article by Larry Rulison in the Times Union posed the question, “Research Triangle found the right formula -- can we?” As the article acknowledges, there is no simple answer to this question. Champions of the concept of university–driven innovation made it happen: creative faculty and administration at North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; a committed state government; and, industry leaders who saw the competitive advantage of partnering with faculty at research-intensive universities in areas of research and development relevant to their particular product lines.
The recent release of a report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences entitled, “The Heart of the Matter,” has inspired much discussion in the halls of universities and the halls of Congress regarding the importance of the humanities versus the sciences in the education of our nation’s young people. As stated by Jennifer Schuessler in the New York Times, this report, commissioned by a bipartisan group of legislators is “… intended as a rallying cry against the entrenched idea that the humanities and social sciences are luxuries that employment-minded students can ill afford.”
In 1972, The United Negro College Fund, now known as the U.N.C.F., adopted what was to become one of the most widely recognized slogans in the country. That still well-known slogan was : “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” And now, this statement is being expanded upon in an effort to focus on the return people who donate to the fund can expect … to focus on such donations as investments in our country’s future.
Around the country, thousands upon thousands of young people are graduating from colleges and universities, eager to enter the next phase of their lives – the world of work. They are looking forward to obtaining employment which will make good use of their particular areas of study; and, in many cases, allow them to begin to pay off the often staggering amounts of debt they have accrued.
Each year at this time, thousands and thousands of young people across our country are readying themselves for one of life’s major passages: graduation from college. Two-year or four-year, public or private, our nation’s institutions of higher education have, once again, provided a learning experience which has profoundly changed the outlook of and prospects for our nation’s students. These graduates leave their alma maters more confident, more poised and more knowledgeable. They appear ready to undertake new challenges and new opportunities, to advance their education or to join the world of work. Most have the maturity necessary to move forward with clarity of purpose and, hopefully, the self-awareness required for personal growth and advancement. They appear, by and large, to be ready to fulfill their own unique potential.
Ben Nelson, former CEO of Snapfish, an online photo service, is determined to stand higher education – at least part of it - on its head. His goal is a simple one: provide large numbers of intellectually-gifted students with an education which will challenge them and prepare them to be the “thought leaders” of tomorrow. The approach Mr. Nelson has laid out to do this “breaks the rules” in many ways, and has been variously described as daring and innovative by some, and ineffective, reckless and over-reaching by others.
Let me start my commentary today with an anecdote: Eighteen year- old, Jane Doe, had just arrived at her residence hall at a university and was eagerly anticipating meeting her roommate and getting to know other first- year classmates.
As the clock ticks down to yet another financial crisis, experts across the nation are weighing in on the consequences facing a myriad of critical government programs -- from defense to cancer research to student financial aid to public health to homeland security. Come tomorrow, March 1st, short a last minute agreement, some $85 billion in across-the-board cuts from sequestration will take effect, albeit, over a number of months and, in some cases, years. Such cuts represent annual reductions of approximately 5% for non-defense spending and 8% in defense expenditures.
Vartan Gregorian, the highly respected head of the Carnegie Corporation, is championing the convening of a national commission, established by the President, which would, in his words, “work on the challenges facing higher education” and which would include all sectors of postsecondary education - public and private, two-year and four-year - in an inclusive discussion of how our nation’s diverse system of higher education can best serve the needs of a more global and more technology – driven society. Be it in terms of completion rates, or participation in STEM disciplines, or prepar
Now that the revelry is dying down, and the harsh reality of ongoing unemployment and the impending “fiscal cliff” re-emerges, President Obama and the Republican leadership need to commit themselves to bridging the partisan divide which has thwarted any major progress over the last four years.