University of Akron president Dr. Luis Proenza looked back at progress of the last year and decade in his annual State of the University address Thursday afternoon at E.J. Thomas Hall, with the theme - "We Have Done Much and We Will Do Much More".
But Dr. Proenza also signaled key changes in the world of higher education, that he says the University of Akron and other institutions must address...among them, the coming prospect of free online learning spearheaded by prestigious universities and companies.
He says the University of Akron and other universities need to develop new ways to assess, certify and credential knowledge...no matter where it's learned.
But he says the bond between professor and student needs to be at the core of the university's success...and that there's an opportunity for the university to create "new value propositions" and business models for higher education.
In a 35 minute speech, Dr. Proenza talked about the dramatic growth of student enrollment at the University of Akron over the past decade - which he called "a good problem to have" in the face of state financial constraints.
He highlighted partnerships such as with the University Park Alliance, the Austen BioInnovation Institute and start-up companies launched out of the University of Akron Research Foundation, the remaking of the campus landscape and the upcoming "academic main street" plan.
In closing, Dr. Proenza invoked the champion Zips men's soccer team, which won it all last year and enters the Mid-American Conference tournament this year ranked #1 in the nation. Dr. Proenza says as soccer coach Caleb Porter says about his team, "We believe in ourselves and we believe in what we are capable of doing."
AkronNewsNow.com note: The video below, "My Akron Experience", was played during Dr. Proenza's speech.
(University of Akron press release)
Much accomplished, and a determination to do much more
The President’s State of the University address highlights progress and opportunities
Akron, Ohio, Nov. 8, 2012– In his 13th State of the University address, University of Akron President Luis M. Proenza embraced what he called “disruptive innovations” which are transforming the learning landscape of higher education. In a speech that detailed many significant achievements of the last year, Proenza’s theme was clearly stated: “We have done much and we will do much more.”
“We must do more because when many students can and do learn almost anything through the Internet, we cannot justify the high cost of tuition,” Proenza said. He detailed the rapidly growing industry of “massive open online courses” or MOOC, in which on-line courses taught by prestigious universities are available to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. “This radical disruption to the traditional college model is a fast-moving train on a track that is still being built, to a destination still uncertain.”
Proenza advanced a new model in which universities would work collaboratively to develop new learning modules, integrate all available learning resources, and provide assessment and credentialing of learning, regardless of how or where that learning took place. He called it the Integrator Assessor Model. Students could literally “select or design their own learning pathways with timelines that match their unique learning styles and circumstances.”
The president noted that this model would be discussed, among others, at the upcoming annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities in Colorado.
In embracing the future, Proenza also reassured the audience of faculty, students and community leaders that the “student-faculty relationship will remain at the core of learning” saying there is magic “in the bond between professor and student, between researchers and teachers and learners.” That bond is a key factor in enhancing opportunities for UA students.
Proenza described the distinctive Akron Experience as a Journey to Success that puts each student on a pathway to a lifetime of achievement. During the speech, Proenza showed a video featuring students describing their Akron Experience.
The president also highlighted several of the University’s significant accomplishments of the last year in his speech:
· The University’s new strategic plan, Vision 2020: A New Gold Standard for University Performance, outlines a series of benchmarks, including boosting enrollment, adding full-time faculty, increasing research expenditures, and keeping students on the right track towards graduation via a new enrollment strategy— all of which have been priorities of Proenza’s since he became president of the University in 1999.
· Advancing The Akron Model, a framework of university engagement that has gained UA national attention for acting as a convener, developer and anchor for clusters of innovation and promoting higher education’s role in driving regional economies
· Launching The Akron Experience, a broad-based dynamic program that provides every student with a unique in-and-out-of-the-classroom learning experience to strengthen the connection between campus and community
· Unveiling a new master guide plan that furthers campus development, enhances the Landscape for Learning, and includes an academic main street that better connects the main campus to downtown Akron
· Creating the Achieving Distinction Program, a long-term, groundbreaking initiative to invest at least $2 million annually to support faculty research and teaching projects focused on regional solutions, health care and medicine, the human condition and innovative technologies; the program’s first winning proposals were announced at the beginning of fall semester – one is a biomimicry research and innovation initiative; the other focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship to speed the pace of research commercialization at UA
· Implementing the new enrollment strategy, “Pathways to Student Academic Success,” guiding students toward their best career pathway– either community colleges, certificate programs, specialized training, or to the University – according to their level of preparedness for college
· Creating bridges that link high school and college through the new STEM High School in the former Central Hower High School building
· Establishing a unique model of industry/university collaboration in the new Timken Engineered Surfaces Laboratory in the new Engineering Research Center, and becoming part of a federally funded $70 million National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute
“We have created new programs, new partnerships and a magnificent new learning and living environment,” Proenza said. “We have earned significant recognition and earned the respect of many. Still, if we are to earn our keep, we also must further enhance our relevance, connectivity and productivity. And that means we must seize the moment and innovate our way to prosperity. What is the state of The University of Akron? We have done much. And we are determined to do much more.”