EMU Presidential Inauguration

Friday, Oct. 20, 2000

Keynote address


Dr. James B. Appleberry

Thank you, Ron (Provost Ron Collins). It is a pleasure to participate in the inauguration of my friend, Dr. Sam Kirkpatrick. Dr. Kirkpatrick and his wife, Pam, have been friends of the Appleberrys for years. He is a recognized leader at the national level through a number of organizations. His leadership on the AASCU's Task Force on Critical Issues in Higher Education is being used and referred to by campuses across the nation. How fortunate it is that this campus and Sam found each other.

But my purpose today is to set the stage; the stage for the global responsibilities of this campus, and the global context for American Higher Education for the coming decade. My view from the Presidency of one of the prominent higher education organizations over the past decade, coupled with my most recent experience in starting a new business, has help me put our future, and our role in perspective.

Several years ago, it was said that information available to mankind doubled every five years, and that by the year 2000&emdash;this year, 97% of the information available to mankind would have been invented or discovered during the lifetime of those living today. About five years ago, one of our leaders in Washington said that by the year 2020, information available to mankind would double every 73 days. President Clinton, in his State of the Union speech two years ago, referred to a similar increase in the speed at which information availability was increasing. Whether any of these projections are accurate, our own experience validates that there is much, much more information available and more easily accessible than ever before&emdash;not just in the United States, but in every developed nation of the world!

Immediate consequences have already been apparent for American higher education. Universities and Colleges have lost their monopoly as a source of information&emdash;if we ever had it. Higher education institutions are no longer in the business of merely transmitting information, either in the classroom or via distance education. Faculty must now teach students how to find and process information on their own, how to make sense or give meaning to what they know! Worldwide, this recognition is also taking hold. This past month, the leaders in Japan declared that their educational system had to change from one that is information-based to process-based learning.

Universities have also lost their geographic boundaries. Recently a worldwide organization of University Presidents and Rectors successfully tested the simultaneous delivery of a course offering throughout the world via distance technology. A for-profit company is discussing the feasibility of launching a series of satellites that will permit global delivery of educational offerings, in the language of the learner! These are beginning steps, but you already know of bilateral electronic linkages between institutions, sharing courses, professors, and engaging in joint research projects. No campus in America, including this one, will be isolated in the future.

Universities have also lost their monopoly on curriculum. Today, students are enrolling in as many as three or four different institutions at the same time. Many students today, and even more in the future, will determine what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and from whom. Employers will have a great say in what their employees learn, and they will validate the worth, quality and value of the learning experiences their employees receive. Faculty will become "information navigators" in the future, helping students know how to access information from various sources and across disciplines, make meaning from the information, and creating learning modules to enhance an individual's ability to create, synthesize, and interpret.

The rapid increase in the sum of information available and the ease with which it can be accessed parallels another circumstance that requires our campuses to lift their horizon to the world that surrounds us. A dramatic change in the world of work is underway--worldwide.

These changes have destabilized both national autonomy and each individual's sense of security. I encourage you to read the March 5, 2000 New York Times Magazine about the workforce of the future. Here are some examples of the importance of knowledge in the work life of our citizens:

Business Week published a special report on the changing workforce. The article reports that no one. . .has a job for life. . .[E]mployees themselves must be continually reinvented. Education forms the foundation for the new workplace.

Peter Drucker says that no class in history has ever risen faster than the blue-collar worker. And no class in history has ever fallen faster. The newly emerging and dominant group will be the knowledge workers.

* The head of Partnership Houston has said that the students graduating from our colleges and universities today can expect to have as many as five careers in their work lifetime--four of which do not exist today. In addition, they may be expected to retrain as many as 12-15 times in their work lifetime! Thus, they WILL have to commit themselves to a lifetime of learning.

What are the consequences of these changes for higher education? Well, here are a few.

Lifelong learning--for everyone. You will likely see your students again, and again!

The importance of a university curriculum and teaching methodology that teach critical thinking, flexibility, adaptability&emdash;and a student's ability to learn on her or his own.

Lack of job security on the part of our graduates--and probably of our faculty.

Growth of part-time labor, requiring more than one job on the part of employees.

Entrepreneurs of "knowledge workers" that have regional, national and international impact because of their teaching expertise.

Globally offered educational coursework and learning opportunities.

The requirement that STUDENTS become motivated to learn in an automated, electronic learning environment. Believe me, that is different!

We in higher education cannot and will not be insulated from the consequences of these conditions. Our educational systems, at every level and in every nation, will be tested as never before in our modern history.

The increase in availability of information and the changing world of work have resulted in changing expectations for higher education. The fact is, we are serving a very different society than just a few years ago. Many on our campuses fear these changes and don't really understand what is happening. However, again our engagement in the world around us will both guide and comfort us. With 38 states now having enacted performance review of higher education, it's past time for us to understand what is happening. We must be a part of the solution, and not a part of the problem as perceived by those who support us.

This nation was formed based on the value of the individual. The difficulty of many of the former restrictive societies to advance in their movement toward democracy is because they don't understand the full consequences of this single fact! It is the individual's opportunity to succeed to the best of her or his ability that has provided the foundation of this society and its form of government.

The system of higher education that fosters independent learning, largely independent from government intervention, is one like that created in the United States. This broadly available educational system has given this nation its flexibility, its creativity, its inventiveness, and its reputation for quality that has enabled it to lead the rest of the world.

We are a society that is based on work, and those who do not have sufficient skill to get and keep a job cannot effectively participate in this or any other competitive-based economy. Therefore, the expectations for us are very clear. Not only must we prepare a flexible, self-learning work force, but we must also be available when business, industry and government turn to us for advice, help, inventions, technology, in addition to the preparation of an educated workforce that is capable of adapting to new work requirements. We are expected, as never before, to "get out of our ivory towers" and involve ourselves in the community&emdash;to share what we know beyond the classroom.

Over the past several years, a new ballgame has emerged in the private sector. They have latched on to technology; have established outcome measures and standards; and have begun to recruit workers with sufficient autonomy to use this flexible technology effectively&emdash;workers that we trained! The private sector has changed&emdash;and those same realities are upon us in higher education today. And they don't understand why we don't examine what we do! We are expected to adapt to the changes they have made.

And by the way, while we are adapting, we are still the ones who are called upon to help the private sector find technological help, locate investment capital, solve a technological adaptation problem in a company, train the workers to handle new tasks and to make independent judgments, and advance the frontiers of basic knowledge through our research.

Let me summarize. Our responses to the changing expectations for us must be through the empowerment of the individual through education, our involvement in the community and society that supports us, and our ability and willingness to customize our educational system to meet the demands of the new society.

The key to the changes I've spoken of today is the fact that we are all serving a very different society than that of just a few years ago. We are being expected to reinvent our educational processes--worldwide. We must be a part of the world, not isolated from it.

But, we cannot forget, however, that in the midst of all this change, this technological power, these shifting conditions, that it will be incumbent upon all of us in higher education to prepare our students to think, adapt, analyze, synthesize, create, communicate, and access information randomly--and to use the technology to enhance their own abilities. Information is a start, but it is the use to which it is put that will make the difference. That has been, is, and always will be the task before us.

Our opportunities are endless. Never before has higher education's success been so important to the future of the nation, and the world. Our ability to integrate vast amounts and sources of information in order to make meaning of that information is our competitive advantage. We are the ones who can define the learning outcomes. We are the ones who can develop the learning modules. We are the ones who can discover the new knowledge, free and unfettered from political influence or economic pressures for an "immediate return on the dollar." We are the ones who can help individuals to think, adapt, compete, cooperate, learn personal and organizational limits, and address the lifelong questions that improve the quality of life, no matter where one may be housed on this planet! The question is, will we?

Never before has the advance in the quality of living for the entire world been so readily dependent upon us--and upon our success. The challenge is ours! I hope my remarks will start you thinking about a very challenging agenda that promises us an exciting--if sometimes frustrating--future.

Sam, I am deeply honored to be here with you today to join in the tribute to you, to signal to all the commitment you have to effective leadership, to dynamic planning, to your vision as a president, and to your caring concern for those whom you serve. Congratulations, my friend, on this momentous day. The more than 400 colleague presidents and chancellors from throughout the nation join me in wishing you, this campus and the community, well as you embark on your journey together.