Convocation 2014

One of the complexities all great universities face now is how to preserve the best of what they are while evolving to meet the new opportunities and demands of our times.  We are the stewards of our world’s history in science, arts, mathematics, health, business and economics, medicine, leadership, education, literature, music, and so on. This is an awesome responsibility that we cannot abandon.

Having the information is less than half the challenge, however.  Our responsibility as a university is to transform this information into deep learning opportunities for our students and for us. New technologies make information retrieval quite easy, but we know that close, meaningful relationships are the basis for deep learning.  How do we stay accessible and responsive to exploding populations of college-ready Californians and maintain the conditions that enable great teaching and learning?

We’ll have to create that solution.  No one has figured it out entirely.

Certainly we need more faculty, more staff, and improved/additional physical facilities to serve additional students.  We will have to test the efficacy of enhancing our courses with electronic resources that are designed to enable innovative scheduling and virtual collaborations.  We’ll have to take a hard look at our curriculum, not from disciplinary silos, but from the perspective of promoting coherent learning experiences for students. We can build on the knowledge students bring to every experience by linking them to their peers in meaningful collaborative efforts that produce transformational learning.

In my view, universities have a rather sacred mission: provide a path toward life success for all who are in the community.  This is a big job.  We don’t manufacture widgets (although our engineers do some pretty spectacular stuff).  We do create environments, conditions, incentives, experiences, and expectations that push us all to build on our strengths and do better for our city, state, country, world, and for ourselves.  We must invent a future that is sustainable, informed, healthy, artistic, civic minded, and optimistic.  We create knowledge.  There’s nothing more important to the future of our planet. What we do is just that big.

What are your ideas about our future in building accessibility and excellence?