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C21U Celebrates Five Years of Innovation and Leadership

May 24, 2017 | Atlanta

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  • C21U Anniversary Panel

It has been five years since the launch of the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) and on May 12, Georgia Tech and the higher education community at-large gathered to celebrate the center’s history and impact.

The C21U Anniversary Celebration was a day-long event, filled with discussion of past successes and future goals for higher education at Georgia Tech. Provost Rafael L. Bras kicked off the day with opening remarks about C21U’s role at the university and the immense industry impact of the center. Bras challenged attendees to consider the nature of change in higher education.

“Many say that higher education is a slow changing enterprise,” said Bras. “But I have always objected. I do think that higher education has always adapted to changing times, but now we must make those adjustments and evolutions much more quickly.”

Following was Rich DeMillo, executive director of C21U, who mapped the history and purpose of C21U, and provided an in-depth presentation on the five functions of the center -- research, outreach, think tank, redesign, and technology. DeMillo touched on C21U’s role as the research arm of the Office of the Provost, as well as its key contributions to the Educational Innovation Ecosystem and the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE). Ultimately, he explained that the intention of C21U is to be a starting point for forward-looking, educational ideas at Georgia Tech.

“Sometimes it takes a garage with its own rules, to develop ideas that will bring about institutional and systemic change,” said DeMillo.

As the day progressed, participants heard from several presenters and panels of distinguished guests. Jonathan Cole, John H. Mason Professor of the University at Columbia University, was the day’s keynote presenter, a role he reprised from the launch of C21U in 2011. Cole’s lecture, “How We Ought to Change Our Great Research Universities,” provided attendees with a glimpse into the history and societal, economic, and cultural impact of the American system of higher education and a taste of Cole’s thoughts on the current state of affairs, as well as the role of universities in the educational system of the future.

“Universities should provide a trained workforce, a better-informed citizenry, and transformational discoveries for better lives of everyone,” said Cole.

The day’s panel discussions and lectures included a deep-dive into the relationship between education and research with Jonathan Cole, Rich DeMillo, Dean Zvi Galil of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and CEO David Levin of McGraw-Hill Education. This challenging topic was facilitated by Jeff Selingo, author and visiting scholar at both C21U and Arizona State University. A Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE) panel followed with an exploration of the work of the commission and an engaging discussion of “what’s next” in higher education innovation at Georgia Tech. This panel was facilitated by CNE co-chair Bonnie Ferri of Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Participants included Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Colin Potts, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development Susan Cozzens, and Associate Dean of Georgia Tech’s School of Engineering, Larry Jacobs. A common theme in discussion throughout the day is the role and purpose of the university in a future filled with different students than those of the past.

“Do we have a clear idea of what kinds of students universities want to turn out? Do we know how to shape a class – what individuals are coming out?” said Cole.

Jeff Selingo shared the startling results of his recent research completed in partnership with C21U and Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence, “Pathways to the university presidency.” He stressed that the role of the university president is in flux and that institutions, like Georgia Tech, need to engage with these cultural forces in order to create the new type of leader needed for such roles.

“How can we create a pathway for new academic leaders – creative thinkers into the business of leadership at universities?” asked Selingo. “We must create more training programs and pathways, reform our search processes, and create better alignment within universities between our short-term goals and our long-term issues.”

Finally, the day ended with a glimpse into the future of tech-driven higher education solutions with presentations from the five winners of the OpenIDEO Higher Education Challenge. Sarah Saxton-Frump, Siya Green, Ekaterina Dovjenko, Ashwin Halgeri and Sergio Marrero pitched their ideas to attendees and painted a hopeful picture for the future of education in the United States. These innovative thinkers stressed that the issues currently plaguing universities can be fixed if university leadership, faculty, and students seek to understand the needs of today’s students and utilize technology to provide better accessibility and affordability for learners.

If you would like to get involved in the work of C21U or have further inquiries, please contact Brittany Aiello. If you would like to contribute to the Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE), please contact Cara-Joy Wong.

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Georgia Institute of Technology
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