Jobs on the Move: Implications for U.S. Higher Education

by James H. Johnson, Jr. and John D. Kasarda
Planning for Higher Education
2008, 36(3), 22-33.

Johnson and Kasarda argue that global job shifts will affect the future form and function of U.S. higher education. To respond effectively to 21st-century realities, they contend, U.S. colleges and universities must diversify their curricula and research, becoming nimbler and more entrepreneurial agents for change.

The authors cite UT's Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium (IE) as a philosophy well-suited to respond to the realities and challenges of the 21st-century. They also cite IE as one of "two good examples of the types of curricular changes that colleges and universities throughout the United States must make to prepare students to compete in the years ahead."

They write:

"Three major structural changes are required if American universities are to remain competitive in the corporate research and development marketplace. First, higher education institutions must move away from their inward-focused ivory tower orientation and become more outward-focused, outward-oriented entrepreneurial engines for new business development and job creation.3 This will require a reengineering of the faculty reward structure to embrace both high-impact applied or action-oriented research and traditional basic research (Stanton 2007; Tornatzky, Waugaman, and Gray 2002).

Second, in striving to become entrepreneurially driven engines of economic growth and job creation, universities must move rapidly to install mechanisms that (1) encourage and create incentives for more interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research on their campuses, and (2) facilitate and support the establishment of regional, national, and global research networks designed to address pressing basic and applied research questions (Safford 2004; Tornatzky, Waugaman, and Gray 2002).

These steps are necessary because the next wave of leading-edge innovations is unlikely to emanate from basic research conducted in the silos of university disciplines. Rather, the major advances of the future are more likely to emerge from interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research within universities-inquiries at the intersections of disciplines-and through interuniversity/ private sector knowledge networks of scholars and researchers that span international boundaries (Chesbrough 2001; Studt 2007).4

Third, to succeed in this new role, universities must figure out how to become more cost-competitive and how to operate at the speed of business. Streamlining the bureaucracy that currently characterizes the university contracting and technology commercialization processes will go a long way toward addressing these issues.

In revising the curriculum to prepare 21st-century students for 21st-century realities, higher education also must develop an appreciation of and demonstrate a major commitment to what the University of Texas at Austin communication studies professor Richard Cherwitz defines as "intellectual entrepreneurship." This involves creating synergistic relations among academic disciplines and between intellectuals on and off campus: to make seamless connections among disciplines and between the academy and the public and private sectors. Intellectual entrepreneurship is about harnessing, integrating, and productively utilizing intellectual energy and talent wherever it is located-in order to promote academic, cultural, political, social, and economic change. (The University of Texas at Austin 2006, unpaginated Web source)

By developing and fostering intellectual entrepreneurship, administrators, faculty, and students will not only gain a greater understanding of the forces that shape the world but also become one of the new agents of change. Such a focus is likely to be highly attractive to the traditional college-age population in the future. As research has shown (Johnson 2006), many of these students will come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and/or communities. Cherwitz (2005, p. 32) argues-correctly in our view-that training in intellectual entrepreneurship will "empower [these] students to discover otherwise unobserved connections between academe and personal and professional commitments." This training will also facilitate students' abilities to solve problems and effect change in their own communities and beyond. In short, this shift toward intellectual entrepreneurship will enable colleges and universities to create the next and succeeding generations of both traditional entrepreneurs in business venturing and a cadre of social and civic entrepreneurs who are committed to using their talents to make meaningful change in the nonprofit and government sectors (Bornstein 2004).

Two good examples exist of the types of curricular changes that colleges and universities throughout the United States must make to prepare students to compete in the years ahead. The first is the previously referenced intellectual entrepreneurship program at the University of Texas at Austin. The second is a major Kauffman Foundation- funded cross-campus initiative that is designed to infuse an entrepreneurial culture throughout the campuses of eight U.S. universities through programs that (1) inspire students to become more entrepreneurial, (2) teach them how to be more entrepreneurial, (3) connect them with business and social entrepreneurs to learn directly and gain experience, and (4) create new attitudes, new knowledge, and new business and social ventures.6

American colleges and universities must also pursue a variety of strategies and delivery mechanisms to address the education needs of lifelong learners. These include online and distance education programs, evening and weekend classes and programs, and other flexible options such as courses of varying length that meet the needs of displaced workers, working adults, retirees, and other targeted groups such as military veterans. Higher education institutions may also have to consider establishing satellite campuses and higher education centers, especially in high-need underserved areas."

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