Last week I received a telephone call from a UNF alumna now enrolled in a Ph.D. program in higher education administration who was seeking to learn what I (and other academic leaders) regard as the major challenges that universities are facing currently and that are likely to continue to preoccupy universities in the near future. I would like to share my thoughts with you in this final newsletter before I step down from my position as provost, the position that has provided me with the vantage point to arrive at the perspective that I am sharing with you here. I offer these thoughts neither as definitive nor revelatory, but only to stimulate your own thinking on these matters. However you read the challenges on the near and far horizons, there is no question that the higher education landscape is changing in significant ways that will impact the careers of every member of the UNF faculty, and the more alert you are to these changes the wiser the input you will be able to proffer, I trust, to UNF's administration as it negotiates the uncharted territory ahead.
I identified four major issues. They are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, each is inclusive and informs all of the others. They are as follows:
- There is a lack of consensus regarding the fundamental purpose and thus the appropriate content of higher education. I hasten to add that I regard this situation as being inevitable and not necessarily regrettable. The fact is that the U.S. population of current and future college students is and always will be heterogeneous, as will the institutions that serve them. The lack of consensus becomes problematic, however, when strong voices argue for education that focuses predominantly on the applied at the expense of the general, which might make sense in the short term but which is likely in the long run to undermine the professional growth and mobility of new college graduates and to impoverish the communities of which they will become members.
- Education is both a public and a private good. The question -- and it is a question that has become progressively more vexed in direct proportion to its cost -- is who should fund the education of our current and future generations of students. Cost, and who should bear it, obviously has a direct bearing on access to higher education, and thus on even larger and more complex issues of social justice.
- While there will probably never be a single optimum mode of educational delivery, there is no question that the emergence of technology already has profoundly transformed the structure and demographics of higher education, and we are only now at the beginning of this transformative process.
- While there is a general consensus that higher education must be broadly accountable, in light of the uncertainty pertaining to the preceding issues, it is not surprising that there is as yet a lack of consensus regarding what constitutes quality and to whom and precisely for what institutions should be accountable.
Draw the higher education map as you will. What is incontrovertible is that the issues I have identified are relevant to every public, private, non-profit and for-profit institution in the country. Furthermore, they are no simpler when looked at as a set of local as opposed to national challenges, because the state of Florida has not fully integrated its different educational systems, and the State University System is itself not homogeneous in any event. All that said, rather than being alarmed at the current state of affairs, I encourage you instead to follow as closely as you can and seek opportunities to participate in national and local conversations so that whatever the outcomes, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have been active agents in the determination of your circumstances of employment and in the design of the institutions (both of higher education generally and UNF in particular) that are of such obvious importance to the future of the professoriate and the future of our students.
It has been an honor to serve as the academic leader of an extraordinarily talented and devoted group of colleagues. I am grateful to you for the opportunity to have done so. I wish you individual and collective success in the years ahead, and I look forward to joining you as a civilian for the duration of my own career. In anticipation of being unencumbered by executive decisions and their occasionally disputatious consequences, I confess to already having begun to think of myself according to the lyric from Bob Dylan's early song "My Back Pages": "Ah, but I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now."
Mark E. Workman
Provost and VPAA
|IN THIS ISSUE
Final Exam Schedule
Friday, April 26, 2013
College of Education and Human Services
Brooks College of Health
College of Computing, Engineering and Construction
Coggin College of Business
College of Arts and Sciences
Summer A&C session:
May 8, 2013
Summer B session:
June 24, 2013