Representatives from Virginia’s two- and four-year public colleges and universities met Wednesday in Charlottesville to exchange ideas and share best practices about educational innovations, administrative efficiencies and redesigning services for higher quality.
“Leading Change through Innovation and Collaboration,” held at the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena, showcased 85 poster exhibits, several panel and roundtable discussions and a keynote address from William “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.
“We face daunting challenges requiring our institutions to be more innovative, flexible and nimble, while remaining true to the education and research mission that defines us,” Kirwan said.
In the face of increasing demands for quality and productivity in higher education, the forum provided a space for institutions to share ideas and explore collaborative solutions to some of the most urgent challenges they face.
Kirwan called for profound change in the culture and traditions in higher education. Drawing from his vast experience as president of the University of Maryland and The Ohio State University, his message was clear:
“The challenge of our time [is] the under-education of the American population and the strategies we in higher education must embrace if we are going to leave to our descendants the kind of America we inherited from our ancestors,” he said. “We in higher education must seriously rethink our business and academic models.”
Kirwan specified cost containment, new pathways to degrees and innovation in course delivery as three essential and transformative areas for improvement. The conference’s panel discussions and roundtable sessions addressed some of those topics, hosted by leaders from attending institutions.
“The big takeaway from this event is the collaboration between so many people and institutions,” said Don Finley, president of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council. “Everyone worked hard to bring the best ideas from their schools. To my knowledge, this event is the first of its kind in Virginia.”
U.Va. leaders hosted conversations on research opportunities for undergraduates, career services, corporate partnerships, strategic sourcing, supporting faculty research, organizational excellence, sustainability, healthy work environments and enhancing teaching and learning. Other topics included public/private multi-institutional partnerships, retention and graduation practices, student success, process automation and the use of external consultants.
“We cannot address the huge responsibility we have for the future well-being of our nation without a much stronger sense of institutional collaboration and partnership,” Kirwan said. “[That’s] a view that quite obviously is apparent among those who have gathered here today.”
More than 275 university professionals and thought leaders from around the state participated in the daylong session. It was co-sponsored by the Council of Presidents, Council of State Senior Business Officers and Virginia Business Higher Education Council.