Universities that choose not to or are unable to adapt to revolutionary changes in the way education is delivered may simply not exist in the decades to come, UT President Lloyd Jacobs told an audience of more than 500 at his sixth annual address to the community in Doermann Theater Sept. 13.Jacobs said in his address titled “A University Rising” that UT has weathered well the storm caused by the past several years of economic troubles and is well-positioned at the leading edge of many of the inevitable academic transformations higher education is experiencing.
“We must avail ourselves of the revolution, take strength and momentum from the revolutionary forces around us,” Jacobs said. “Our goal is to place the student at the center of our strategy and strive not for self-preservation, but for the prosperity, longevity, personal fulfillment and good health of our students now and into the future.”
Jacobs pointed to Salman Khan as a leading global example of academic innovation. Khan worked for a hedge fund before deciding to quit his job and offer free online videos on dozens of educational subjects via thousands of lessons. This collection of free lessons has turned into Khan Academy, a virtual, web-based institution accessible from anywhere in the world.
“It is fashionable these days to assert that the business model for higher education is broken, that innovation in our core business of teaching and learning is largely unattainable. University presidents describe themselves as ‘incrementalists’ while a revolutionary like Salman Khan is transforming education around them and us,” Jacobs said.
Noting that institutions like MIT, Harvard, Stanford and Michigan already are emulating Khan’s methods, Jacobs said UT’s similar initiative — Innovative Customized Education — soon will feature Khan-influenced digital lectures in the Memorial Field House, free for all students.
Jacobs said that much of the responsibility to strategize and implement the transformations needed to stay relevant will fall on the shoulders of UT’s new provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Scott Scarborough.
Acknowledging that his 20 years’ experience in universities’ business operations and time as CEO of UT Medical Center make him an unconventional choice for provost, Jacobs said that the academic and financial tensions central to the provost position make him an ideal candidate at the current time.
“Scott showed himself to be agile, flexible and open to learning new areas and new skills,” he said. “He demonstrated phenomenal leadership ability and strategic thinking. He has learned a good deal. His long background in higher education coupled with his energy and leadership makes him an excellent choice for provost.”
Additionally, Jacobs called for a deeper and more focused global engagement strategy, announcing his intention to create a President’s Commission on Global Initiatives in the coming weeks.
He also called for increased local partnership in the area of health care.
“One recent estimate is that approximately three-quarters of $1 billion is spent for health care in other cities by residents of northwest Ohio,” he said. “Think of what it would be for this community if three-quarters of that $1 billion were paid to nurses and technicians who then bought groceries and gasoline in this community; think if those grocery and gasoline sellers bought pizza and maybe even attended The University of Toledo.”