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Forward Thinking in Higher Education

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I’ve been reading, observing, synthesizing, and writing more during this time. To get out of this circular rut, we need Forward Thinking in higher education about the things that we do know and the things we can control. We need actionable, realistic ideas that move the needle. While I have some strategic and clever ideas that will move institutions forward, I certainly don’t have all of the answers. So, I started reaching out to like-minded and forward-thinking people in higher education and inviting them to contribute articles.

This is the first IEHE Forward Thinking volume in the series.

How do we escape what feels like the continuous time loop  – like in the movie Groundhog Day? Each day is hard to distinguish from the other – affectionately known as Blursday. We all have to ‘hurry up and wait’ – for the end of the pandemic, for a vaccine, or for a miracle. It is no wonder that it’s hard to  move forward in higher education. Especially when one needs to plan for 15 Fall scenarios.

Forward Thinking On What We DO Know

Months into this pandemic and we are still reeling from all of the changes – and many more that we know are still to come. Three months ago, some of these changes would have seemed absurd. Now anything seems possible. It is this tailspin that causes many of us to get stuck in our thinking and ability to move forward.

Since there is so much to wrap our heads around, let’s start with some of the things we DO know. For example, we don’t need to wait any longer to know that the unemployment rates are the worst on record. No doubt, this impacts recent graduates’ ability to get jobs. For those institutions that calculate and report employment rates, we all can guess that the rates will be down. Sure – a declining employment rate for the class of 2020 is explainable. Many data folks will note that year on the chart with an asterisk . . . *This was the pandemic year.

OR … you can be Forward Thinking and take actions now that will allow your institution to add more context to that story. This way, you can share the efforts that your institution is making to support students right now. For example:

  • Would your students be interested in learning more about graduate school opportunities? If so, offer them more information.
  • How about conducting mock interviews with soon-to-be graduates? Or if you already do mock interviews, how about conducting a few via Zoom?
  • Or perhaps develop/collect a set of best practices for interviewing for a job via Zoom? After all, not many companies will be interviewing in person for a while.

Image of a woman on top of a mountain, with text At first, they'll ask why you're doing it. Later, they'll ask you how you did it. - Unknown

Great Minds Share Ideas

Building on this adapted Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Great Minds Share Ideas,” I identified colleagues, experts, and other innovative folks to contribute to the Forward Thinking series. If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it is that we must work together. This includes sharing our ideas and strategies for getting through this successfully.

The immediate and enthusiastic response has been encouraging, overwhelming, and exciting. So many professionals want to share their ideas about how to move forward, think forward, and take action. The topics, ideas, and content have just poured out! IEHE is pleased to provide an organized venue for new ideas to be shared, highlighted, and elevated by contributing authors. Additionally, Forward Thinking serves as a free resource to readers seeking new ideas and connections.

We Can Accomplish More Together Than AloneThis is an image of a sign that says the future is now, suggesting forward thinking.

This Max De Pree quote has inspired IEHE’s Forward Thinking series. Additionally, we believe in elevating others – highlighting their expertise. Thus, at the bottom of each article you will find the photo, name and institutional affiliation of the contributing author. This information is provided to recognize their contribution, and to allow readers to connect with the author further on the topic.

We know the solutions to big problems can’t be found in a single article. Additional conversation may be of interest. In fact, scholars know that partnerships, collaborations, and focus on growth made the difference between those organizations that flourished – and those that didn’t – after the last Great Recession.

I hope you enjoy reading the articles in this first volume. You can use the navigation buttons at the top or the bottom of the page. You can read in the order we’ve organized them. Or — choose your own adventure, skip around, or check out our other articles.

Kristina Powers headshot

Kristina Powers, PhD

Kristina Powers is President of the Institute for Effectiveness in Higher Education.