Systemness (to borrow Nancy Zimpher’s term) is without a doubt central to the sustainable future of higher education. While many states have higher ed systems and many universities have multiple campus locations that comprise a system, they are struggling with systems thinking. It is not a common mindset; in fact, quite the opposite mindset of the silo-based evolution of higher ed.
Recently, I’ve been wondering: what can higher education learn from other perspectives when it comes to system integration? What can we learn from the engineer’s mind on process and design?
What can we learn from biology and how the organ systems of the body work together? Or, from the structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets or the plot and power of Toni Morrison’s Beloved?
Very specifically, what can we learn from studying our comprehensive health care systems?
While we will keep vision, mission, and values as higher ed’s central operating system, the goal of deepening our understanding of other systems is to find transference: what functions and services work best when centralized and which are best left decentralized?
Ultimately, how do we strike a collaborative balance in higher ed that enables mission assurance, creates cost efficiencies, adds value to multi-campus operations, and yields positive outcomes for the student experience? And does all of these things guided by the everlasting motto of Students first!