The Culture of Change

While the theme of this year's annual meeting of the American Council on Education is "Ahead of the Curve," college and university administrators might leave the conference with the impression that they are not changing fast enough.

In the conference's opening lecture, Arizona State University President Michael Crow talked about the "massive change" that has to come to higher education, highlighting the major shifts in production required to meet President Obama’s completion goals — and how most of that must be accomplished by the entering class of 2016, less than four and a half years from now. Michael Mandelbaum, co-author of That Used to be Us, spoke about the critical challenges the United States faces in the global economy and higher education’s importance in addressing them. In another talk, Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, spoke about his own work and its potential to change educational delivery. Clayton M. Christensen, co-author of The Innovative University, who spoke at the conference last year, held a session on the innovations that make meeting such challenges possible.

The general takeaway: higher education needs to change, it needs to change quickly, and it needs to change in major ways. And while the threats and the potential solutions have been kicked around for years, even presidents who grasp the challenges have sometimes faced resistance when they have tried to bring changes to their campuses.

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