Convocation 2008

Fall Convocation 2008

Antioch University New England’s Fall Convocation provides an opportunity to celebrate our recent accomplishments, consider where we stand today, and focus on our goals and directions for the year ahead. We have now completed the first year of our new 2007-2012 strategic plan. Today’s discussion of our accomplishments and goals will be framed within the context of the strategic plan that serves as a roadmap for our institution, indicating who we are, where we want to go, and how we will get there.

At last year’s Fall Convocation, I stressed the critical transition that AUNE now faces. This is the transition from talk to action — from strategic planning to strategic behavior. I shared one of my favorite quotes from Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, and one of the first people to realize that we now live in a knowledge economy. He said: “The best way to predict the future, is to invent it.” This idea embodies a proactive and assertive approach to life, one that led to the founding of Antioch University New England in 1964. I strongly believe that it is also the foundation of our current strategic plan, which asserts that AUNE is no longer content to sit still and let the future happen to it, but rather, will lean forward into the future proactively and invent its place in the world anew.

Today we are going to focus on the nuts and bolts; the details of our accomplishments and the strategic challenges that lay before us. But before we start that discussion, I want to stress that these initiatives and activities are all rooted in the fundamental purpose and values of Antioch University New England that are so clearly re-stated in Priority #1 of the strategic plan.

Statement of Purpose

Antioch University New England provides transformative education through scholarship, innovation, and community action for a just and sustainable society.

Values

AUNE is committed to innovative academic excellence, integrating practice with theory in a collaborative environment that is attentive to multiple learning styles.
AUNE believes in ecological stewardship and social justice, cultivating local as well as global perspectives to educate students with diverse backgrounds and opinions to become leaders of change.

AUNE values community engagement: using place-based practices to foster scholarship, activism, and service learning; creating organizational integrity through shared governance.

These are the founding purpose and values of our institution, restated in 21st century language, that have animated AUNE for almost 45 years. They must remain at the center of our attention even while we focus on the nuts and bolts of accomplishing our strategic goals today and over the next four years.

After a review of progress on our strategic priorities and discussion of the challenges ahead in relation to specific strategic goals, I want to share a longer-term perspective on the transformative role of information technology in teaching and learning in the 21st century and what it means for our nation’s higher education enterprise and, of course, for our institution.

Framework for Assessing our Progress

I have worked with the president’s cabinet to develop a systematic approach to tracking progress on each strategic goal within the strategic plan’s five priority areas. We are calling this the Strategic Plan Implementation Matrix. It includes specific action steps for each goal, a delineation of the persons or offices responsible for the action steps, and a detailed timeline for the accomplishment of the goals. The Implementation Matrix will be used to perform an annual assessment of progress and to design remediation steps for those goals where progress has been less than expected. The Strategic Plan Implementation Matrix is available for everyone to review on the President’s page of the AUNE web site.

Strategic Areas not Included in the Strategic Plan

Sustainability and Social Justice

As Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice, Abi Abrash Walton has responsibility for our goals in a variety of areas related to the Social Justice Audit action plan and the commitments we have made by becoming a signatory to the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. These include social performance and environmental performance, procurement, and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. In the area of social performance, we have achieved a number of the objectives spelled out in the action plan including establishment of a system of student government, a broadly representative President’s Council, and the position of Assistant to the President for Sustainability and Social Justice.

In the area of environmental performance, we have made significant progress in the past year. We now have in place a system for accurately tracking and analyzing our energy use and we have implemented several strategies to reduce energy consumption. These include the restroom light sensors, the “Please Flip Me Off” campaign to encourage turning off room lights, removal of high energy-use vending machines, and a “Green Bikes” bicycle lending program. In the area of procurement, we have also been transitioning to greener, more ethically produced product purchasing. For example, we have switched over to greener cleaning supplies. Under Abi’s leadership, we have also implemented the “Carbon Counts: You Can Too Campaign” which included pop-up messages about energy use, the “Carbon Counts” brown bag lunch series, and the “Green Guru” program.

Facility Capacity to Support our Mission

All of us who work and study on the campus are acutely aware of the shortcomings of AUNE’s facility. In addition to having classrooms that do not meet the needs of today’s instructional environment, we lack adequate specialized classrooms for science, arts, and dance. Our large group assembly space does not meet our current needs and there is a shortage of faculty and staff offices. While we continue to pursue options to relocate our campus to a new facility in Keene, we have taken some steps to address several of these issues in the short term. For example, by moving the psychological services and therapy clinics to leased space off campus, and the University IT staff to 41 Avon Street, we are able to provide additional faculty offices for Applied Psychology and Environmental Studies and relocate communications and web services to the east wing.

Currently, Tim Jordan, Vice President for Finance and Administration, is leading the building committee in the development of a functional program of our facility needs. This program will guide AUNE’s facility capacity projects in the years ahead, whether these involve relocation to a new facility or major renovations. Also, we will continue to explore other minor renovations that address some of our facility capacity challenges.

Progress in Strategic Plan Priorities Areas

Governance and Structure

A key goal of the strategic plan in this area was to better define and describe our campus governance system. To that end, the president’s cabinet gathered information from all standing committees about membership, purpose, and function. This information has been collected and refined in a single document that also clarifies how each committee is connected to the table of organization. This new AUNE Standing Committee document is available in several FirstClass conferences.

Revenue and Business Strategies

Our strategic plan goals and business strategies target two areas for enhanced net revenue: continuing education programming and development/fund raising. The president’s cabinet has decided to move forward with the reorganization of our continuing education programming during 2008-2009. This will involve creating the framework for a new department of continuing education and outreach. A small task force composed of individuals from current continuing education programs will work with me on this effort during the spring semester.

In the area of development and fund raising, we have worked with the Chancellor’s Office on a grant proposal to the Pierson Lovelace Foundation that will provide funds to leverage our capacity in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. These funds will allow us to add several new positions to support a significantly improved development operation that is expected to yield positive results over the next few years.

Academic Initiatives

In relation to the strategic plan goals under priorities 4 and 5, Steve Guerriero, Vice President for Academic Affairs, is leading our efforts to move forward a wide range of academic initiatives. These include taking a hard look at existing academic programs, especially those with underperforming enrollment, and pursuing significant curriculum and credit hour revisions or, in some cases, curtailing programs. Several departments are also developing new programs in their existing disciplines, for example, Applied Psychology has a new certificate program in Applied Behavior Analysis moving through the campus new program process. We are also in the early phase of developing several programs in new disciplines. Feasibility studies are underway for a graduate degree program in public administration as well as several undergraduate degree completion programs. Finally, we have contracted with a company that has significant expertise in marketing and recruitment for online/low residency programs to conduct environmental scans of several existing AUNE programs that could potentially achieve significant enrollment scalability in a distance learning format.

The Long View: The 21st Century Context for Higher Education

All of the efforts involved in achieving the strategic plan goals outlined above are taking place within the context of far-reaching and transformational changes in teaching and learning driven by today’s digital information technology environment. I believe that this transformation in information technology will have a profound impact on the nature of higher education in the 21st century. Our ability to effectively plan for the future will be enhanced if we better understand the historical context of the use of information technology in human society. Therefore, I would like to present a long view of the previous major transformations in information technology used for teaching and learning and how they changed the nature of the higher learning enterprise, so that we may better understand the impact of today’s changing environment.

There have been four major transformations in human history in the nature of the information technology available to conduct teaching and learning. Each technology determined society’s capacity to pass knowledge from one generation to the next and to create new knowledge. One could even argue that each transformation actually changed the very nature of human society. Between these transformational changes were long periods of stability and consolidation.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, we do not live in one of these periods of stability. We are, in fact, in the early phases of the latest transformational period. Thus, Eric Hoffer’s admonition is particularly relevant for us today: “In times of change, the learners will inherit the earth; the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” As the stewards responsible for Antioch University New England in today’s time of transformational change, our goal must be to act as learners, and to create in AUNE a learning organization.

Transformation Number One

The first information technology used for teaching and learning was human speech. Speech evolved as early humans formed social groups sometime in the prehistoric past, most likely between 20,000 and 30,000 ago. For hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of human generations, the only way knowledge was passed forward was through an oral tradition. This worked effectively, but had some serious limitations. First, the learner had to be within earshot of the teacher for learning to take place and the accuracy of the knowledge transmitted depended on the memory of the learner. Also, if the teacher’s life came to an untimely end, knowledge that was not passed on was lost forever. These shortcomings were overcome with the invention of writing.

Transformation Number Two

A far-reaching transformation in teaching and learning followed the development of writing, which constitutes the second major change in information technology. In fact, we can find the roots of the modern university in the emergence of scholar/priests as specialized producers and preservers of knowledge in written form around 6,000 BCE. Eventually, the royal library at Nineveh had over 10,000 works arranged by subject and, much later, the Greek library at Alexandria contained over 700,000 volumes. Scholars came to use the information stored in these knowledge institutions and to add new knowledge. People who wished to gain knowledge came to study with the scholars and to gain access to the stored information.

It is during this period that we can see the emergence of a form of societal organization that became the modern university. Scholars came to the knowledge storage institution to study and create knowledge. Students flowed to that physical location to learn from the scholars and get access to the stored information. The Greek derivation of our modern word “lecture” means literally, “to read from the text.” That, of course, is exactly what the scholars did. Because, typically, only one copy of each volume existed, they were very rare and precious. Texts were actually chained to the walls of the library so no one could walk off with them. Scholars read the texts aloud, and added commentary about the content, while students sat and listened. That sounds a lot like the pattern of teaching and learning that still dominated higher education into the late 20th century.

Transformation Number Three

The third major change in information technology occurred with the advent of the portable book. The printing press, more than any other single innovation, led the democratization of knowledge. No longer limited and controlled by an elite few, information could now be made available to anyone. Over time, this led to the establishment of thousands of knowledge institutions around the world with great libraries holding millions of volumes. It also led to the elaboration of the scholar/lecture model of teaching. Enabled by the portable book, this approach evolved into the lecture and self-study model, now enshrined as the Carnegie Credit, that is the coin of the realm in American higher education (one credit is measured as one hour of classroom-lecture and two hours of “out of class” self-study per week, over a 14 week semester).

This model of higher learning, first practiced in the ancient information storage institutions with books chained to the walls, was remarkably stable for thousands of years. It is not qualitatively different from the modern university or college, built around its library and faculty, where students gather at a specific location.

There are several key attributes of this model of higher learning that are particularly important to note before we consider the impact of the fourth major transformational change in information technology.

  1. The ancient model was logical when information was scarce and the reproduction of documents was expensive and restricted.
  2. The direction of flow is fundamental in the model: scholars, and therefore learners, flow to the location of the knowledge storage institution.

Transformation Number Four

We are now experiencing the emergence of the fourth major transformation in the information technology available for teaching and learning: the age of ubiquitous interconnectivity of digital information resources through the world-wide-web and its web 2.0 offspring. This transformation has made the key attributes of the old model obsolete. The scarcity, expense, and restrictiveness of information that was the norm through the mid-twentieth century, no longer exists today. Information is widely available to anyone, anywhere without restriction, and is virtually free. Perhaps more profoundly, the direction of flow has reversed. Information and scholars/teachers can now flow to learners, wherever they are and whenever they would like to receive it.

In my view, this fourth transformation is just as powerful in terms of its impact on the nature of teaching and learning, and on human society, as were the transformations caused by speech, writing, and the portable book. The age of www/w2.0 has two central characteristics with profound implications for teaching and learning and thus for knowledge institutions. The reversal of the direction of flow has already been mentioned and its implications are powerful indeed. Numerous new accredited universities have emerged that do not have physical campuses and traditional higher education institutions of every kind offer programs of study that students “attend” and graduate from without ever setting foot on a physical campus. Enrollments in online courses have grown at a rate of over 15% per year for ten consecutive years while overall higher education enrollment remains flat.

The second central characteristic of the new era of ubiquitous interconnectivity is the non-linear nature of hyperlinks afforded by the world-wide-web. The hyperlink transports the learner through a web of non-linear connections in a manner that was unthinkable in the previous linear world of lecture, print, and analog audio and video. One minute the learner may be reading a passage on deep sea creatures, and three clicks later will have seen a video lecture by a nationally renowned scientist, visited the social network site of the graduate students in her lab, and studied a film of the actual creatures taken from a deep sea research sub, while simultaneously engaging in a threaded discussion with other students in the class.

It is important to note that we are living today in the very early stages of this fourth transformation. The first generation to live their lives completely in the age of www/w2.0 is now only about fourteen years old. However, the impacts on higher education have already been significant.

  1. Greatly diminished relevance of time and place
  2. Highly significant variations in faculty roles
  3. Empowered learners who are free from the constraints of location
  4. Greatly increased role for partnerships of all kinds
  5. Less distinction between educational institutions and other types of organizations

Closing Comments

I hope you get the very real sense, from looking at this broad historical landscape, that we are indeed very lucky. We get to live, as the famed Chinese proverb says, “in interesting times.” We have the responsibility for stewardship of this marvelous institution during the early days of the fourth transformation in the information technology used for teaching and learning in human society.

Now, all of the changes that this transformation will eventually bring will not happen at once. Many of those that are 15 to 25 years in the future, we cannot even imagine today. But, as we can already tell, they will happen at a breathtaking rate, and, I expect, at an increasingly breathtaking rate as we move forward. Our strategic plan provides us with a road map to stay on top of this wave of change and prepare Antioch University New England to thrive in a future higher education environment that little resembles that which existed before the 1990s. Let’s work together to achieve these goals and encourage each other every day to truly enjoy the opportunity that we have to do this exciting work, remembering that, while the landscape will certainly be quite different in the future, our purpose and values as an institution remain as vital and relevant as ever.

Thank you,
David Caruso,
President