In 40 years in academia, I have never experienced a faster pace of change. I am convinced that the future belongs to those institutions that are nimble enough to stay in front of the wave of change and, more importantly, help define what will be next in education.
That feeling led to the creation late in 2015 of the Georgia Institute of Technology Commission on Creating the Next in Education (CNE). In my charge to the CNE, I wrote: “…the business of national and international education is rapidly changing. The old models of business, pedagogy, and mission are either being questioned, or are no longer valid, meaning we must continually assess and reassess our own methodologies. Issues of ‘flat world’ connectivity, technology and accessibility, affordability and return on investment, and a diversifying body of learners drive today’s higher education model, all while the old funding model becomes obsolete.” The commission was launched with the mission to take a look at the Institute’s current educational principles and methodologies, benchmark best practices in higher education, and make recommendations about how the Georgia Tech of the future will serve new and different generations of learners.
Like most other institutions, Georgia Tech has historically served its students with a traditional, linear, front-loaded educational experience with a defined start and finish. For the Georgia Tech of the future, that pathway must and will change. More than ever, higher education is expected to produce graduates who get jobs and also provide educational opportunities that serve individuals’ needs throughout their entire careers. Successful universities will not only meet the educational needs to get that first job after graduation, but also to achieve career changes and advancements over time.
“I got out,” is the proud mantra of the more than 157,000 Georgia Tech alumni worldwide. Whether a few years out, or celebrating a 50th class reunion, or perhaps somewhere in their midcareer, each Georgia Tech alumnus is bonded to this institution by stories of tradition, hard work, rigor, and experiences while they were a student. For most of them, the pathway did lead to jobs and success, but “getting out” may not be sufficient for future graduates facing a rapidly changing world where knowledge and information are growing at an exponential rate. So what can Georgia Tech do for these future graduates?
The Commission explores this and more in its final report. Georgia Tech remains committed to our mission as a public, technological research institution, and the traditional, residential experience will remain the core of our mission. But the Georgia Tech for the next generation must be transformed by redefining the fundamental approach to educational delivery. That new approach, called the Georgia Tech Commitment to a Lifetime Education, envisions continual engagement with learners that extends from kindergarten to forever. The Georgia Tech Commitment means integration with primary and secondary schools, flexible learning options, connectivity that enables learning beyond traditional college years, and a network that supports learners all over the world.
Because of the Georgia Tech Commitment, future generations of learners will no longer say “I got out,” but instead will happily say “I’m forever in.”
The Commission recognized that achieving this vision will require innovation, and Georgia Tech is no stranger to innovation. We know that it takes time, but to become an institution that is responsive and ready to meet the evolving needs of the students, we must begin our transformation today.
We are, and will continue to be, the “we can do that” university. In that spirit, I invite the community — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends — to join arms and work to implement the ideas found in this document, and lead the way in achieving our vision to “define the technological research university of the 21st century.”
Rafael L. Bras Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
K. Harrison Brown Family Chair
Georgia Institute of Technology