To shape and sustain its future, higher education must become deliberate about establishing new connections, building new partnerships, and evolving itself into a collaborative enterprise.
Many creative examples can be found in the publication The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University. As you will read, the Entrepreneurial University takes a pro-active stance in turning knowledge and student into economic generation. Students are not only becoming the prepared professionals in scientific disciplines, business, culture, but they are also encouraged and trained to become entrepreneurs and firm founders, contributing to economic growth and job creation.
Rather than only serving as a source of new ideas for existing firms, universities are combining their research and teaching capabilities in new formats to become a source of new business and technology development.
While not every campus is in a position to create new enterprises, at a minimum, strengthening an campus’s innovative, entrepreneurial, and/or collaborative foundation will increase its value proposition.
Simply, a campus that builds a culture of innovation and collaboration will, consequently, catalyze solutions to pressing contemporary–educational, economic, and societal–challenges.
The formal partnership between the University of Dayton and GE Aviation is a major collaborative practice and example of visionary leadership. As a result, GE Aviation built a $54 million research-and-development center on UD’s campus, creating space and opportunity for faculty and students researchers to work together with GE Aviation scientists and engineers on developing new advanced technologies. Further, the partnership created a talent pipeline from UD directly into GE Aviation and its core industries, beginning with internships and co-ops, and, ultimately will lead to full-time employment of UD graduates. These are initial good results, yet the longterm benefits will be transformative for both entities.
Creating this particular university-industry partnership requires mature, collaborative thinking. Hence, UD’s and GE Aviation’s leadership needs to be studied deeply, as this type of higher collaboration is the future.
Synergy is a key indicator for measuring effective and ineffective collaboration. This indicator emerged in my research that contributed to the scholarship on community partners. The research deepened our understanding of what community partners look for and expect in successful civic partnerships with higher education. The “effective” and “ineffective” descriptors provide helpful, measurable criteria to keep in mind when establishing, monitoring, and evaluating a collaborative partnership.
- Acknowledges that both partners are better off working together than separately, creating a mutuality that results in higher productivity and progress toward desired outcomes
- Recognizes the community partner adds value to student education by providing practical experience and that students receive real-world lessons in servant leadership
- Demonstrates that faculty gain more experience in the areas of practice and direct service
- Creates feeling of pleasure from collaboration
- Produces happiness with results of the partnership
- Believes parties’ constituencies mutually benefit from the relationship
- Permits patronizing attitude toward community partner on the part of faculty and administrators
- Exhibits academic arrogance on part of tenured faculty who are disconnected from direct-service providers
- Views practice as inferior to theory
- Places students in the awkward situation of brokering the relationship between faculty and community partner, making them the glue that holds the partnership together
Many other descriptors could be added to this initial list, but it does give us a place to start when entering into collaboration. The full list of indicators can be found at Community Partners Indicators of Engagement: An Action Research Study on Campus-Community Partnership.
Paul Erdős provided us with a formula for determining “collaborative distance.” If you think about it in other terms, he gave us a mathematical road for collaborative closeness. Since it through collaboration that people are brought together to work on challenges, explore opportunities, seek solutions, and, ultimately, create collective impact, as we pursue collaborative work, our potential for success increases exponentially as we increase our Erdős number. k + 1 = collaborative closeness.
TEDxDayton 2014 had many rich talks throughout the day. This tongue and cheek talk on collaboration by Stephen and Joel Levinson gives us a personal look into collaboration and not-collaboration. Keeping the content lighthearted and, as a result, definitely engaging, the Levinson brothers share good tips we can employ when we are in the messiness of our collaborative work.
Acts of Collaboration happen all the time, but they are not accidental. Today, SOCHE and its college and university members teamed up with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as part of the Talent Pipeline Initiative to host the first ever Wright-Patterson Internship Fair. This collaborative effort brought more than 800 students to the National Museum of the US Air Force to meet with employers on base and off base from aerospace and defense. There is no shortage of young, passionate talent in southwest Ohio and collaborative efforts like today are bridging college students with industry in new and productive ways. Cheers to everyone involved!
Are the competencies sought by employers similar to those needed for citizens to protect and lead American democracy? Tuft University’s models of student civic learning outcomes include the following competencies: comprehension, analysis, synthesis, planning, communication, cultural competency, leadership, and evaluation. While SOCHE’s Civic Measures are:deliberation, advocacy, consensus building, awareness, voice, and critical reflection. Aren’t both of these sets the qualities you look for and find in your most talented working professionals? That is part of the question…a question being wrestled with today. I had the opportunity to participate in the launch of a national conversation on this subject held in our nation’s capital on January 21 hosted by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) and several key partners. This conversation responded to concerns voiced by thousands of citizens in more than 160 local forums in which participants deliberated on how higher education maintains a rich, holistic, liberal education while, at the same time, meets growing demands for specific skillsets in our graduates by employers. The topic is ripe for discussion and NIFI has provided an issue guidebook to get us started: The Changing World of Work: What Should We Ask of Higher Education? You can also watch a recording of the January 21 event to hear what higher education, business, and government perspectives shared at the launch: Live Stream Video.
As for SOCHE’s position, we believe through deliberative conversations our region’s 120,000 students will develop the knowledge and skills that strengthen American democracy, as well as make valuable professionals for the creative economy. Hence, we will continue to partner with our members to host issue forums in the future. In the meantime, think about this last question: how best do our campuses bridge their economic and civic missions into one enriched, comprehensive education for Ohioans?
Higher Collaboration is the title of a book I am currently working on with my colleague Ty Buckman. The table of contents are emerging along these lines:
Table of contents
- Brief history of collaboration
- Contemporary challenges to higher education
- Collaboration as THE strategic future
- Common practices
- Unique possibilities
- Pipedream solutions
- Collaborative ROI
- Parochial obstacle
- Getting to higher collaboration through Leadership
Stay tuned for snippets in the coming months. In meantime, send examples of practices you’ve seen work or not work in higher ed.
One of my favorite quotes is by the Japanese poet Ryonuske Satoro, who said “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” This quote perfectly captures the power and scale of collaboration, acknowledging the vast and limitless potential when we approach life through collaborative thinking.
Together we are an ocean…an ocean of ideas, energies, minds, solutions…an ocean of endless possibility.