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End Note

smoke-free campus sign

Imagine it's the end of the semester. Students are pulling all-nighters to complete term papers and study for final exams. The stress level is off the charts, and some students reach for the pack of cigarettes for a "quick smoke" to help calm their nerves. For the growing number of colleges and universities that have adopted tobacco-free policies, this is their final exam.

Tom Keppple

If a college freshman stepped onto a campus where it was obvious that the administration had spent months eviscerating each other over petty slights instead of balancing the budget—or refusing to name a dean because a faction of the faculty resent his work on committees—the student would undoubtedly run screaming into the night looking for the fastest way out of there.

We are running out of time. While our public policy makers equivocate and avoid the topic of climate change, the window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing. The way forward is clear, yet for many confrontation-averse academics, the path seems impassable. It requires action that’s unnatural to the scientifically initiated: fight to regain territory occupied by climate change deniers.

A father I know asked his 9th-grader how his math grades had jumped from C to A-, when prior personal tutoring hadn’t helped. The reply: “Dad, it’s easy! I taught myself using Khan Academy.”

The idea of yet another administrative process doesn’t tend to sit well with college and university officials. Yet, when assessing data that is not included in financial audits—such as admissions criteria, crime reports, retention and graduation rates, and degrees conferred—a thorough review process is integral to the success of an institution and to upholding its reputation.

Will residential liberal arts colleges follow the path of the wristwatch? I sure hope so. With all of the talk about MOOCs, online instruction, and game-based learning models, many of us working at residential liberal arts colleges are uncertain about our future. The reports are scaring us into conversations about fundamentally restructuring—perhaps even abandoning what we do and how we do it.

The $25.8 million New Central Residence Hall is scheduled for fall 2013 occupancy.

In all the understandable buzz about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and alternative models for delivering content, remember this: Residential campuses will continue to be critical to higher education and to preparing a competitive 21st-century workforce. Why? For starters, as MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, high quality online education and affordable residential campuses are intertwined.

Our institutions of higher learning are populated by experts in a wide range of fields—smart people with strong problem-solving abilities. This past year, as a first-time college president, it occurred to me that I should make a concerted effort to harness this brainpower for the good of my institution and its students. I envisioned a program that would motivate faculty and staff at Marymount University (Va.) to engage in creative, collaborative thinking to develop cost-saving, revenue-generating, and process-improving initiatives.

The higher education chief information officer role has origins that date back around three decades. This relatively nascent position is evolving at breakneck speed, adapting to the rapidly changing information technology landscape and a higher ed space also undergoing unprecedented change. Research conducted for my dissertation reveals that major IT industry developments such as IT consumerization—the bring your own device (BYOD) movement—cloud computing, and the information security suite of issues are all impacting the CIO role in profound ways.

At Rollins College (Fla.), we’re always looking for new ways to enhance student learning experiences. A signature feature of liberal arts schools is the intimacy and strength of engagement in the classroom. With this philosophy, you might assume that virtual classrooms don’t have a place at Rollins. But technology’s role in higher education isn’t synonymous just with distance learning and online courses. Technology is a tool that can enrich the liberal arts learning experience and make it more meaningful.