Jonathan Alger

Chapter 4

Transformation Through Active Engagement

  • Jonathan Alger
    President - James Madison University

Chapter Overview

With its reliance on a highly skilled workforce, higher education is often described as “the next bubble to burst.” Politicians and pundits call daily for “disruptive” transformational changes to bring down costs, focusing heavily on the latest trends in technology. What many in this discussion miss is that higher education is constantly transforming. After all, the new learning technologies heralded as the potential downfall of higher education were developed on the very campuses they purportedly will kill. So as is true with most breathless and contentious public dialogues, a more nuanced assessment of how higher education ought to further transform is in order.

To begin, predicting that technologically delivered content will completely replace traditional forms of teaching and learning is like predicting that watching cooking shows will replace eating food. While cooking shows can help us to make our food taste better, it is preposterous to suggest that watching them can replace the actual consumption of nourishment. In this way, real experiences and nourishing human connections made between students, their professors and their fellow students may be more important now than ever, as technologies that shorten attention spans and enable shallow substitutes for real, meaningful relationships proliferate.

In his chapter, President Alger describes a unique, 3-part campus engagement plan that is changing their campus dynamic – one that is fostering a creative and innovative problem-solving mindset across all academic disciplines.

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