Systemness

Systemness (to borrow Nancy Zimpher’s term) is without a doubt central to the sustainable future for 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 designthe-habits-of-systems-thinker?
What can we learn from biology and the organ systems of the body? Or, from the structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets or Toni Morrison’s Beloved?

Very specifically, what can we learn from studying our comprehensive health care systems?

Keeping 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? Students first!

 

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