Monday, October 7, 2013

Dr. Faulkner: Adapt or Die

In the last two days, two articles and a blog entry have crossed my desk that emphasize the need for us as a college to be flexible, nimble, and willing to change.  The first is a commentary from The Chronicle of Higher Education titled, “Take It From an Ex-Journalist: Adapt or Die. You can see where I got my title.  In this article, Byron P. White, a former journalist and now a Vice President at Cleveland State University, compares the current state of higher education to the newspaper business as it existed a few years ago.  He recounts that the conversations in higher education today are much the same as those heard in newspaper offices.  He lists the many forces that forced newspapers into bankruptcy, drastic changes in delivery, or even worse ceasing to publish.  White says, “To this day, I believe the newspaper industry could have avoided such a steep decline had we made a serious commitment to adapt to change.”

The second article by Bruce Leslie, Chancellor of Alamo Colleges is from Community College Week. The title is The End of the Community College, Again.  It is an update of an article that appeared in the publication in 1996.  It is essentially a brief SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the state of community colleges.  It is remarkable how little change has occurred since 1996.  But what is scary is that we have made only limited progress in addressing the threats that were evident even more than a decade ago.  Leslie states, “To prevent the End of the Community College, its leaders must redesign our mini-university model and become the assertively responsive, transformative, and community-engaged design that is our very own so that we are leading, engaging and accelerating actions necessary to competitively flourish and teach for the 21st century.”

The final piece to cross my desk was a Greg Smith post from the blog Higher Ed Tech Talk. “Higher education must continue to offer the foundation that fits the community it serves. We focus on the development of the mind, body and soul but we also fine tune our academic product to meet customer and market demand. And we neutralize the threat from technology by embracing it. The threat to higher education is the avoidance of change.”

The point is that we can’t assume that we are too big to fail or that our heritage will be enough to sustain us in a changing environment.  We have to be ready and willing to adapt.  In the last few years, scores of newspapers have either ceased publication or have gone to a purely on-line format.  Yes, change is uncomfortable but it is inevitable if we are to survive and thrive. 

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

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