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Future Shock

For all of the human suffering and economic pain inflicted by the Middle East wars and the skyrocketing petroleum costs around the world, there is a glimmer of hope on America's energy horizon-that is, America's colleges and universities are increasingly joining the race to explore renewable and alternative energy sources.

It's the summer of 1987, and the scene is the venerable Tam Bar and Restaurant on Beacon Street in Brookline, Mass. In walk Drs. Martin and Samels for an evening of banter, ideation, and reinvention of higher education.

For the most part, the general public perceives major universities and small community colleges as traveling in different academic circles.

There was a time and place in American higher education when our urban universities sat at the pinnacle of power, prestige, and influence. Over the past several centuries, the nation has witnessed the emergence of venerable institutions like Harvard in Cambridge, Yale in New Haven, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and The University of Chicago-urban universities that enrolled the cream of the student crop, attracted world-class faculty, pioneered new scholarship, and, importantly, built up the kind of endowment that can sufficiently support major research.

Here is an easy question to lead off with, a soft lob down the middle for University Business sluggers: What do the following cities and towns have in common: Amherst, Cambridge, Berkeley, Huntsville, Madison, Ann Arbor, Princeton, Chapel Hill, and Palo Alto?

Here we are again, flying out of Vegas on yet another business trip--pausing to consider the contemporary axiom that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Yet, somehow, we sensed this trip was different from the get-go.

It has now been nearly 15 years since the first public policy debates emerged surrounding the invention of charter colleges or universities.

Few higher ed insiders took these charter proposals seriously when they were first introduced. After all, the only credible organizations that were pushing charters were like-minded, conservative think-tank organizations (Pioneer Institute, Empire Foundation, et al.), as well as a few private businessmen who yearned for an opportunity to run institutions of higher learning "like their businesses."

At first, it was almost imperceptible, that gut feeling that something had changed in the rarefied atmosphere of higher ed leadership circles. Indeed, as we travel across the nation speaking about our new book, Presidential Transition in Higher Education, we more frequently encounter women CEOs as the designated hitters in their public higher education systems.