Thinking About America: Education in the FutureTense

Written by Tony Mussari
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project
All rights reserved

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. John Lubbock

Misericordia University at Noon

On an unseasonably cold February morning, I made my way to theMU_4579 Catherine Evans McGowan Room of the Mary Kintz Bevevino Library at Misericordia University. I was interested in the Brown Bag Luncheon Lecture Series talk “The Future of Education.”

The featured speakers for this event speakers were Russ Pottle, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Glen Tillis, interim dean of the College of Health Sciences, and Fred Croop, dean of the College of Professional Studies and Social Sciences.

At the appointed hour, Dr. Tim Kearney, Chairman of the Business department, welcomed those of us who had braved the weather to attend, and he introduced the speakers. He encouraged everyone in the room to participate, because in his words, this was a discussion not a lecture.

The Sky Is Not Falling

Dr. Russ Pottle began his remarks with a disclaimer. He wanted everyone RPottle_4535to know that he could not predict the future of education, but he could share his desires and impressions.

He emphasized the importance of core values and the mission of educational institutions like Misericordia. He was very certain that small liberal arts colleges are not an endangered species.

They face challenges to be sure.

Yes, high tech is important.

Yes, the digital revolution has had a significant impact.

Yes, schools must adapt.

Most important for small private schools, however, is how they connect with students, how they get into the lives of students in helpful and positive ways. For me, the most memorable words spoken by the Dean Pottle were these:

Content delivery is not education. The human touch matters in education.

Where is the Future Going?

Dr. Glenn Tillis shared his perspective about educating students for careers in the field of health and medicine. He talked about the pressureG Tillia to make health care more efficient.

He defined his role as an educational leader with this question:

How do we match what is happening with reality?

According to Tillis a number of technology-driven things are happening:

Large, open, online colleges like Coursera;

MOOC online courses;

The emphasis on preventitive medicine.

Tillis sees these as opportunities as well as challenges. He and his colleagues must find ways to innovate while maintaining a human connection, a physical presence with students in traditional ways that matter.

Technology is Impacting Education

Dr. Fred Croop introduced himself as an accountant who respects FCroopobjectivity. He promised the audience he would share what he thinks will happen in education, not what he desires will happen.

He agreed with the previous speakers on several points:

Colleges must honor their core values;

Colleges and departments must differentiate themselves in order to recruit students;

They must ask the question why are we in the business?

What do we offer that others do not?

That being said, he was quick to point out that as soon as someone figures out how to make money with MOOC courses, the landscape will change.

Lessons Learned

All three speakers were well prepared, and very thoughtful. No one could leave the session without a better understanding of some of the majorspeakers_4528 challenges facing education and educators. The digital revolution is here, and it cannot be ignored. This is a time of transition and change.

The most vexing question is “How does one maintain the human connection during this era of “digital disconnection,” increased government regulation and changing standards?

Some believe a hybrid approach will save the day. Keep what works best and adapt. Encourage a team approach. Don’t abandon the essence of the traditional liberal arts education which encourages exploration for the pragmatic purpose of application.

In response to a question, Dr Tillis suggested a solution:

“We need innovation as well as exploration and application.”

Fred Croop was very emphatic about the role of money and the consumer mindset in the future of education. For him, the underlying theme is money. He did not address the issue, is cheaper better? He did speculate what a new strategy might look like. There will be an increase in the use of MOOCs (online courses), and administrators will piece together degrees in an effort to balance professional demands with traditional academic offerings.

After the session ended, I returned to the place in the library where I had LPasteur_4547discovered a book about Louis Pasteur before the session. Joining the ranks of the undergraduates sitting at tables in the library, I read these prophetic words authored by Pasteur:

The future belongs to science more and more. She will control the destinies of nations.

What an irony, I thought to myself. These words came from a giant of his day who was described as having the gifts of the heart and head in equal measure.

These gifts are being maintained by administrators, faculty and staff at Misericordia.Depart to serve_4555 That makes this University a very special place for students and all who visit.

Before I left the library, I stopped to take a picture of the icon celebrating the Sisters of Mercy who founded Misericordia. On this day, the three words above the image had special meaning for me, “Depart To Serve.” Misericordia was then and is now a place of service oriented leadership.

I am looking forward to the next Brown Bag Luncheon Lecture.

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