Wacky Creativity from Diverse Teams

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Graphic from Teerath Garg, Pulse, LinkedIn

Once upon a time, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the Northern Hemisphere, in a time not unlike the present, I participated in a team project that illuminated the value of diverse perspectives in creating new paradigms, discussing solutions, and in ultimately contributing to intellectual capital and economic development in our region. In order to portray this team’s project accurately, it seems appropriate to disclose that this particular teamwork occurred within a very diverse metropolitan population with participants of very diverse backgrounds, intellectual disciplines, and world views—in an institution of higher education.

Admittedly, in the Northern Hemisphere, and probably in the Southern Hemisphere, too, extraordinary illustrations of the value of teamwork are becoming increasingly common in many industries, and among participants globally distant but connected via the Internet. However, I am relating this microcosmos story because I probably know more about it, and working on the team was intellectually stimulating and affirming for future projects.

So, here is what happened. At a small liberal arts college, with the leadership of the president, we decided to encourage the development of a team to compete for grant funds that would help transform the University over the course of five years by enhancing academic degree programs, engaging students more in experiential learning through co-curricular activities, and heightening awareness of career possibilities for students from on-boarding to obtaining professional careers.  Our charge was also to ensure students were gaining appropriate liberal arts exposure and competencies through the college core and then acquiring specialized knowledge in majors, minors, concentrations, and certifications to compete better in professional careers.

Thus, the team’s responsibility was to work closely with faculty, staff, and industry partners to ascertain maximum alignment between liberal arts competencies of the University and those desired in entry-professions—while at the same time strengthening specific academic disciplines. The steering committee that formed to answer this charge was composed partially of persons with specific work functions and those with interest in the project. What was so remarkable about our team of five individuals who formed the steering committee?

Well, for one thing, in terms of variables such as academic disciplines, life experiences, geographical origins, philosophies, and paradigms about solving problems, the five-member steering committee members and their subcommittees brought different lenses to view opportunities.   Possibly, not too unexpectedly, team meetings were characterized by spirited dialogue, wacky creativity, and openness to listening to the perspectives of others.

Agreed upon pathways definitely underscored the team’s diverse philosophical bents, geographical backgrounds, and disciplinary approaches. Measuring progress by empirical analysis was paramount to all members, and the many ways of gathering data were discussed and debated within the team. Participating in each team meeting was stimulating and energizing—unlike some academic committee meetings. Because of the backgrounds of the participants, we were able to expand our individual perspectives and ease pass our comfort zones, to view our opportunities from the combined lenses of a chemist, an exceptional student educator, a mathematician, a seasoned administrator, an external affairs and business community liaison, and a liberal arts/social scientist. At times, it seemed like our perspectives were evolving into 3-dimensional paradigms—with views that encompassed 360 degrees of possibilities, realities, and limitations.

The team project was successful in obtaining grant funds, in heightening awareness of how the University could both enhance its liberal arts curriculum and work with more alignment internally and externally. One major outcome is that the project’s outcomes will augment students’ competencies for competing professionally in a global workplace.

The original steering committee continues to work together, and it has expanded into a larger group of faculty and staff adding to the spirited conversations and stimulating more wacky creativity.

I am just loving it!

Home Pages and Social Media- Tools that help Students with College Choices

Recently, my husband and I were asked to review the communication strategies of a liberal arts college in the Southeast. In addition to our joint experiences and expertise which covered a range of marketing materials–view books, webpages, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.)–we also engaged in research on communication strategies for a range of institutions from Ivy League to small liberal arts colleges. social_media_iconFlower-01

Admittedly, we did not engage in focus groups or conduct extensive surveys with prospective students–that would come later to refine strategies for the specific college. We did, however, seek feedback from some recent college graduates and prospective students about the slogans, looks, and feel of selected college websites, and the general capability of most colleges to convincingly answer that critical question, “Why come here?” through their virtual open doors–their websites’ home pages.

What we learned was not surprising, but it reinforced our theory that adept design of the home page and employment of the growing multitude of social media connections have become extremely important in attracting and engaging students who regularly use social media, and who would benefit from learning about the unique college experiences and resources of a specific institution.

It was also obvious that some colleges constructed their home page for audiences other than the media saturated prospective students (i.e. with a great deal of text for students to read). Other institutions employed home pages as opportunities for students to explore how they could fit into college life–with skillful, vibrant photography, and easily visible links to various resources and social media sites. These institutions allow students to read comments of other students, to ask questions, and to use the portal as a window to observe college life, by skillfully placed links to photos and videos, depicting a range of students and faculty participating in campus and community life.

So, why is all of this important? As a nation, we seem to have reached a consensus that we must increase the number of students who complete a quality college education so that we will stay competitive in a world quickly evolving through the adaptation of technology, just-in-time learning, and innovations in the workplace that have already exceeded projections of some futurists (Remember the cinematic prediction from the movie, “Back to the Future?). Moreover, most colleges have distinct niches, cultures, and characteristics that will be a better fit for some students than others. It is through the college home page that prospective students and families will make decisions whether to visit the campus and whether the curricular/co-curricular experiences are likely to lead to a fulfilling and empowering liberal arts/professional education and/or a solid foundation for advanced study and lifelong learning.

Some of the recent graduates we asked about home pages noted that the brands/slogans seemed to be a call to action like: “Reach Within…Shape the future” and “Become yourself…Change the World.”

These slogans appeared to be more exciting and attractive than the standard claims of excellence, tradition, or a focus on famous graduates from years gone by. Another observation was that the strategic design of a home page portal to attract students who are good fits for a college is a highly cost-effective technique for attracting students. YouTube videos and testimonials from students through homepage links can also level the playing field for smaller colleges with quality learning environments, but smaller advertising budgets.  When coupled with College Board data, visits led by student ambassadors, constant email updates or news feeds, easily accessible college applications, and the demonstrated promise of their slogans, smaller colleges struggling to attract students might be pleasantly surprised about the power of a well-planned, stimulating homepage with appealing social media windows.

As A New Semester Begins–It is Important to Reassure Americans About the Value of Higher Education

thA new semester is beginning on many college and university campuses. With the smiling and hopeful faces of students and their families as they move onto college campuses around the nation, there is also the thinly veiled anxiety about the cost/benefit analysis of higher education.

Recently, I researched and delivered a presentation on the current challenges and opportunities in higher education. Of course, perspectives on these challenges and opportunities, though they might seem more pressing now, are not by any means new.

During President Clinton’s term, Public Law 105-18, (Title IV, Cost of Higher Education Review, 1997) established the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education as an independent advisory body and called for a comprehensive review of the affordability of higher education because public concern was at an all time high.

This legislation created an 11-member commission with members to be appointed by various governmental bodies. In brief, its charge was to examine factors and trends that were related to higher tuition costs, the role of state and federal policies, mechanisms for financially assisting families, and innovative ways to minimize costs for the future.

According to the final report, “The Commission’s recommendations–several dozen in total–emphasize shared responsibility to (1) strengthen institutional cost control; (2) improve market information and public accountability; (3) deregulate higher education; (4) rethink accreditation; and (5) enhance and simplify Federal student aid.” The degree to which the Commission recommendations were, and are still being enacted, is debatable.

However, in the last five years or so, the public spotlight on higher education seems to have only intensified. Articles and discussions on costs and related issues in higher education can be viewed in various publications such as Forbes, American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. In addition to discussions about costs and graduation rates, the public appears to be more attentive to, and focus on, when things go awry on college campuses. One consequence of this scrutiny is that the terms of college presidents have shortened, and one public misstep anywhere among the rank and file can derail an academic leader. Public confidence in higher education seems to be at an all time low.

Yet, at the core of this spotlight on higher education institutions and the frequency of news stories on the costs, graduation rates, and student debt is the difficulty in determining and measuring families’ and society’s return on its investments in higher education. Some higher education leaders believe that college and university advocates should acknowledge the underlying anxiety among these investors in education and engage in more meaningful dialogues and demonstrations of the added value and contributions of higher education to local, regional, national, and global communities.

Possibly, through dialogues, demonstrations and strategic storytelling, more public recognition will ultimately emerge about the positive effects of higher education on economic development, creation of jobs, cultural enrichment, development of intellectual capital, support of small businesses, and overall heightened quality of life in various communities. However, these conversations will not be easy dialogues or demonstrations to convince families and other taxpayers who are still struggling to pay for college.  Questions linger such as: Will higher education really lead to better lifestyles and overall well being? Will debt to finance college educations result in unpaid mortgages, and living from paycheck to paycheck?

After over 30 years in higher education, it is easier to acknowledge that investments in higher education involve extremely complicated short-term and long-term benefits. Higher education outcomes include human transformations within the context of academic coursework, co-curricular activities, leadership opportunities, learning communities, residential life, and internship experiences. It is common for students to leave college with a greater sense of purpose and/or changes in attitudes and perspectives. While educators often observe how higher education transforms individuals and generations of individual families, these observations, in many cases, have not been quantified beyond graduation rates and job attainment. Many educators have seen first hand how the college education of one family member spreads like a ripple effect and changes the quality and perspectives of family worlds for current and future generations.

Because we are steeped in the culture of higher education, we educators might assume that the benefits of higher education are obvious. Thus, we do not necessarily focus on, or understand, the general anxiety of families, legislators, prospective students, and other significant stakeholders who question these investments. Moreover, as educators, we can also point to the numerous assessments already employed in measuring various academic and co-curriculum outcomes of higher education. These assessments include accreditation through the eight regional accreditation associations (i.e. Southern Association, New England, Middle States, Western Association, Council for Higher Education, and so forth) that measure each college/university’s ability to demonstrate that they are fulfilling their academic and student service objectives.

Further, many disciplines within colleges and universities are also accredited by professional associations for that discipline–such as the American Bar Association, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, National Architectural Accreditation Board, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology–to name a few.) Nonetheless, many citizens are not aware of these regular assessments, and/or what they signify about the value and benefits of higher education.

Thus, there are more and more discussions throughout local, state and federal levels to increase accountability measures–even though it is not clear that increased measurements would capture the main benefits of higher education (i.e., producing critical thinkers, lifelong learners, and intelligent citizens who will work together to create and improve upon the tenets of our nation). Nonetheless, it is hard to escape the fact that the focus on measuring outcomes is also related to the overall general anxiety about the expected benefits of higher education for obtaining more immediate and tangible outcomes such as high paying jobs, promotional opportunities, and overall higher quality of living that includes nice cars, home ownership, and increased consumerism.

Since many families’ incomes and net worth have not kept pace with the general notions of a middle class good life, it can be argued that frustration and anxiety are probably further fueled by the unrelenting pressure on everyone to continue to consume more, better, newer products and technologies.

So, what should colleges/universities do to counteract this public pressure about costs, the expectation of high-income jobs, and queries about the value of higher education outcomes? Well, for one thing, even though numerous colleges and universities have existed for hundreds of years, they have not always worked strategically to engage in dialogue with significant stakeholders about the value that they add to families and communities. Such conversations are past due.

By highlighting and clearly demonstrating the benefits of higher education that extend far beyond graduation rates, hopefully, more Americans will recognize that critical thinking, broadened perspectives, and innovation (which, by the way, are characteristics of a quality liberal arts education) will lead to a better quality of lives for their families, children, retirement years, and future generations. The more citizens understand the broad and multi-generational benefits of higher education,  the greater the possibilities are of reducing general anxiety over costs. Hopefully, anxieties over costs will eventually be replaced by acknowledgements, or pride, that the investment in higher education delivers greater lifelong benefits than the short-term investments in new cars, bigger houses, and the latest trendy technology!

National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education, Federal Register, The Daily Journal of the United States Government, Office of the Federal Register, website.

The American Dream–A Reboot Needed

IMG_0749Recently while spring cleaning, I sorted through some older TIME magazines and put one issue down, then picked it up again.  The 2012 TIME issue entitled, “The Making of America Issue: The History of the American Dream,” seemed to linger in my hands while riveting scenarios of the current deepening divides in American lifestyles, educational achievement, justice, economic realities, and dreams for improved lifestyles raced through my mind. The TIME article on the American Dream was written by Jon Meacham.

Before I venture forward, I should make it clear that my family, like many others, ascribes to an education leads to upward mobility version of the American Dream.  We believe that hard work, quality higher education, delayed gratification, spiritual grounding coupled with core values of honesty, personal integrity, compassion, and altruism pave the way for personal and familial well being.  Our American Dream also embraces peaceful existence with our global neighbors, whenever possible.  Like our parents, we have been known to live below our financial means, at times.  However, also like our parents, we seek to leave a legacy that will result in a better future for our children, grandchildren, and other people’s children.  We suspect that most American families shape the Dream to fit their past family experiences and future expectations.

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For the most part, like others, we are proud of our diligence, contributions as citizens, and we are honored to pass the legacy of hard work, higher education, and altruism on to our extended family, friends, and the students we have helped guide over numerous decades in higher education.   Yet, while we feel hopeful overall, and we are sometimes viewed as good examples of obtaining the American Dream, we know that there are multitudes of families who feel crushed and betrayed in their quests for the good life of the American Dream.

We often wonder if the implicit Dream core values of hard work, improved quality of life, accumulation of wealth, and steady progress for individuals, for families, and for the nation have morphed into a light speed, digitally enhanced 21st century notion of progress–the accumulation of goods.  We also question whether the numerous messages of a better, more consumer-oriented, Middle Class have become so commercialized that many Americans are left disillusioned? Is the commercialized American Dream a positive contribution to the global community?

So, with the magazine cradled in my hands, I sat on the floor, and I reread the article that sought to describe the economic and social complexities in which the vision of an American Dream emerged. I noted that the term American Dream was supposedly coined after the Great Depression in 1931 by popular historian James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America.  Historian Adams discussed the ‘American Dream of a better, richer, and happier life of every rank’ as a great thought or concept that America had contributed to the world.  In brief, the Dream described an expectation of a steady improvement in the lives of everyday Americans, the lives of their children and grandchildren, and growth of the nation.

As usual, the devil is in the details. In some ways, you can argue that the concept of the American Dream for a better life is a beacon of hope which under girds many Americans and immigrants, as they endure economic hardships, an array of inequities, and conditions totally out of anyone’s control. Emerging out of the 1930’s Great Depression, it was probably crucial to rally the spirit and hearts of everyday Americans with a vision of hope for a better future.  Yet, from the beginning, there were contradictions and struggles in applying the intrinsic building blocks of the Dream.  At times, various groups perceived that their rights to the Dream were blocked and sought remedies in the Civil Rights Movement, Supreme Court decisions, the US Justice Department, the political system, public education, the workplace, and housing venues—to name a few.

Likewise, for most of the last decade,  times have been tough in America for most citizens.  Efforts to live the lifestyles that are seemingly promised by the Dream have been met with economic downturns, home foreclosures, downsizing at jobs, shrinking wages, and various gridlocks in state and federal governments.  Some American citizens are professing lack of confidence and hope in the roles of once venerable institutions (such as government and higher education) in supporting the American Dream.  Their uneasiness is further exasperated by data that reveal a steady unevenness of quality of life and well-being in American society for many citizens.

Yet, in some ways, we might have sabotaged ourselves in our quest for the Dream.  It probably does not help that we are bombarded constantly, by media and advertisements, with examples of how we are supposed to be pursuing the Dream.  Despite evidence to the contrary, ubiquitous images of people obtaining the Dream seem to suggest that disparities, struggling families, and foreclosure realities are/were only a blip in an otherwise society of beautiful, successful, technologically equipped, and content Americans citizens who are lining-up to purchase the latest must have product such as the newest cell phone, for instance.

Only when it is really hard to ignore the growing tensions and frustrations of some Americans in achieving some version of the Dream do we see some sort of news coverage of details gone awry (protests, workplace violence, toxic spills, riots, active shooters, and political gridlock).  No matter how beautiful the reporters are, many of us are still not really comforted.  Further, there is a growing disquiet among many Americans about the future prospects of their children, the value of a college degree, coupled with growing anxiety about retiring without enough money.  The economic recovery that has not quite trickled down to millions and millions of citizens is making it increasingly difficult for them to pursue their American Dreams.  Similar to the years after the Great Depression, Americans seem to need a Dream, that is supported appropriately, that helps them maintain hope, security, and economic stability.

So, what do we do?  Some of us think it is time to reboot the American Dream by strengthening the pillars (institutions, policies, and living work wages) that support the core values of upward mobility, personal progress, and national progress. Certainly rebooting the American Dream would encompass policies that support families; affordable higher education; higher wage jobs; opportunities for continuing education; improved achievement in K-16 education; and fairly applied justice for all.  The 21st century American Dream also seems to require broadened perspectives of racial understanding, tolerance of differences, sustainability practices, knowledge of global complexities, and an awareness of the benefits and pitfalls of a consumer driven society.  Possibly, if citizens focused less on acquiring expensive possessions, without appropriate monetary resources, they would enjoy a better sense of overall well-being (and less debt).  For example–what would happen if more discretionary income was invested in future leaders, innovative projects, and/or scholarships for students?

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The American Dream for the 21st century would probably also benefit from taking into consideration the access to different windows of the world allowed by the Internet and alternative news networks. America, as much as we love it, is not viewed as the center of the world by everyone.  A more complex, interdependent view of the world would help Americans make more knowledgeable political and social decisions.

The American Dream can once again, become a beacon of hope, but it needs to be rebooted for the technologically enhanced, and globally connected world of the 21st century!  The reboot might start as close as possibly to the family unit and gradually include global communities. Meacham, Jon. “Keeping the Dream Alive,” TIME, Vol. 180, No. I, 2012.

Women’s History Month- Celebrating Our Leadership Talent Pool

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Women’s History Month presents an opportunity to reflect on (her)stories–nationally and globally. First of all, we have been fortunate in America to move towards a more enlightened and holistic sense of humanity because of the emergence of incomparable, iconic, and some internationally renowned women. Regardless of your current paradigm of what leaders should do to inspire and effect needed stability or change, it is easy to discern that there is something magnificently different, inspiring, courageous, and enthralling about extraordinary women who have risen to prominence in America.

As I reflect, it is hard to identify how a combination of intellect, authenticity, courage, charisma, personal backgrounds, and public appearance coalesces into women leaders who are fascinating and uplifting to watch. Nonetheless, there are, and have been, women visionaries who compel us to envision a better self and better world.  Each of us probably has a list of unforgettable women who helped shape our lives. And yes, there have been many men such as fathers, brothers, teachers, mentors who also helped shape and mentor us.  However,  this month we tell her stories.

Many of the women who have affected our lives seem to have had the courage to push past cultural expectations; to lead with their hearts and to engage the hearts of others; to employ their intellects to encourage intellectual development of generations; to broaden circles of interest about significant public issues to influence public policy; and to illustrate a grace under pressure that we can only applaud. As we think of, and pay homage to, these extraordinary women who accomplished the unexpected and possibly unthinkable while making it look easy, we also have to acknowledge that there are countless women who are not discoverable in historical accounts. For many of us, these women are unknown and obscure; yet, we are better humans because they were here. Thus, we should pay homage to all of them!

Recently, I began thinking about some of the women who helped me develop a broader view of leadership in higher education, to understand leadership from a woman’s perspective, and to embrace needed personal transformations and realities. Thus, I personally thank some authentic and incomparable women such as: the first African-American woman principal, former slave, and pioneering educator Fanny Jackson Coppin; activist and civil-rights leader Coretta Scott King; award-winning author, poet, and indomitable spirit Maya Angelou; Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize novelist Toni Morrison; anthropologist, museum director, and sister president Johnnetta B. Cole; higher education leader, President Molly Broad; Hall of Fame Coach C. Vivian Stringer; higher education educator, author, mentor, and former college president Gretchen Bataille; educator, former mentor, and former college president Bernice Miller; actress, singer, and late entertainer extraordinaire Pearl Bailey; selfless and inspirational Catholic school nuns; and of course, my late hardworking, nurse caregiver, supportive, and Southern mom, Dolores Batiste Howard.  These women with their ranges of perspectives and experiences have furnished a broad and diverse legacy from whence I have benefited.

When thinking of the contributions of these, and so many other women, it is easy to imagine that there is an expanded talent pool to elect a woman President of the United States with characteristics of some of our extraordinary American women. Of course, like many Americans, I want the most qualified,  future-oriented, and politically adept person to lead America. So maybe the time has come to broaden our pool of consideration to include some of those extraordinary women leaders of which America appears to have an abundance. A cursory glance of recorded history demonstrates that other countries have capitalized on the skills of women for national leadership roles. Although there are fewer Internet records of the lives or leadership characteristics of Queen Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.); Elizabeth I, Queen of England (1533-1603); Prime Minister Golda Meir; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; or Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, their feats as leaders have inspired and broken the perceived glass ceiling for generations of women around the world.

Women’s History Month is a good time to engage in positive actions that support women in our institutions of higher education, businesses, and communities so that we will broaden our pool of talent for potentially great, world leaders!

Learning for a Lifetime of Choices

Refined from President’s blog

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A little while ago, I had lunch with a childhood friend, Marlene.  We have been friends since we were both thirteen years old, and that has been decades ago. Our lifelong friendship began on the Southside of Chicago where we discovered personal commonalities, as we explored the public libraries together and devised many less intellectual adventurers.  On a Wednesday in November 2013,  we met in Union Station in Washington, D. C., and it was indeed a reunion of epic proportions.  Between the two of us there were four children–all with college degrees.    It was our prayer, and our spouses’ too, that we had prepared these talented young adults to lead responsible, worthwhile, and altruistic lives.

When we looked into each other’s faces, we bore witness to a half century of American societal forces that had shaped the lives, and choices of two women who grew-up with limited resources, but who dreamed of nearly endless possibilities.  My friend earned a MBA from a big ten university, and I earned a PhD from a top-ranked national university.  Besides the fact that both of us have done well, by American standards, we also gained so much more from our college experiences than the academic content and subsequent jobs.  The value of our higher education included exposure to options, consideration of diverse perspectives,  and development of skill sets beyond our imaginations.

As we seek to grapple with the finances surrounding colleges and universities, the debate about the value of colleges and universities has reached a louder pitch with proponents on all sides.   As states struggle with competing priorities for revenue, and the economic recovery continues, there is more concern about the value of a college education in relationship to the cost of attendance.  While nearly half of my college experience included the private and well-regarded University of Chicago, it still does seem possible for students to choose from a range of institutions which correlate, as closely as possible, with their family and financial support systems.

Now I know that from a lifelong learner and educator, much of what I think about the value of a college education could be discounted–since I liked learning so much–it did not occur to me to leave the college/university  structured community of learners.  However,  as my friend and I shared stories in Union Station, it also occurred to me how fortunate we have both been to have spent so much time learning from the perspectives of others,  and how our expanded worldviews had influenced the activities we engaged in with our children and probably the choices and lives of our children and their future grandchildren. It seems that an expanded worldview is in itself a legacy–possibly just as precious as an inheritance of a land estate.

Engaging in various structured classroom or hybrid learning experiences also seems to help build a sense of confidence in the learners.  Without a doubt this confidence can be gained from other experiences rather than a college experience, but the efficiency and sequencing of these experiences in a college environment might take years to acquire without the talented and caring professors serving as learning guides.

Thus, one value of colleges and universities, is that we offer options to assist learners enjoy a lifetime of choices and to leave a legacy of options.

How Do We Help The Millennial Generation Develop a Sense of Purpose?

Refined from August 6, 2009, President’s Blog

Every year this time, faculty and staff at colleges and universities around the nation are greeting new and returning students for the academic year. For many of us in academia, there is anticipation and a personal sense of renewal with each new class of students.

During the summer months, faculty refresh courses materials, construct course packs, and design their instruction and assessment to respond to the intellectual and emotional needs of this new cohort of students.  Also, during the summer, the admissions and financial aid professionals have been busy answering telephones to help families manage transitions into the higher learning communities of colleges and universities. Other middle and senior managers also have been busy refining policies and procedures that will guide the campus community through the upcoming academic year.

As I participated in, and observed, these various preparation activities, I realized that one of our challenges is to determine how we can contribute to the development of a sense of purpose in our new and returning students. This sense of purpose will, hopefully, be ignited by the general education curriculum and, appropriately, expanded and enhanced by an academic major and interactions with faculty and mentors.

On the surface, many students will attest that they come to college to pursue specific careers, or to increase their earning potential over their lifetimes. However, if we delve beyond their veneers, we discover that many students come to college searching for a future, searching for their passions, and searching for something that is bigger … something that they can commit their talents and affinities to – a sense of purpose. English novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly (1797-1851), the author of the famous Gothic novel, Frankenstein, is quoted as stating, “Nothing contributes so much to tranquilizing the mind, as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.”

As I reflect, it seems that it is the intellectual and spiritual realization of a compelling sense of purpose that is the ultimate goal of higher education—possibly it is the ultimate goal of the human existence. If we succeed in our colleges and universities, our students will leave with a vision and sense of purpose that is bigger than the acquisition of material possessions or gaining a high-paying first job. Possibly, the sense of purpose they gain at our educational institutions will result in their being a better neighbor, in developing a more enlightened view of the interconnectedness of all humans, and in participating more aggressively in sustaining the environment for future generations.

For those who want to measure the value of colleges and universities, how to you measure this outcome, “a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye”?

Maybe this emotional, intellectual, and spiritual transformation of members of our society is really the quintessential purpose of college–of quality education.

I hope that all of us, who guide the education of college students will also move forth with a steady sense of purpose.