Visiting academician Rich Demillo offered some great advice for higher education institutions last night while lecturing at the Clinton School of Public Service. When you get down to it, it's the same advice a good communicator offers her clients -- determine your values, find what differentiates your institution from others and then plan and act in accordance with those values. In short, be innovative while remaining authentic to who you are.
While that's good advice for any organization, in his book, Abelard to Apple, Dr. DeMillo targets his lesson specifically to the thousands of colleges languishing in "the middle," the term he ascribes to institutions who are not among the elite (Ivy League, top research universities) nor are they one of the new and experimental higher ed institutions.
Too often, the institutions in the middle are trying too hard to mimic those schools above them in this hierarchy rather than finding and building on their own strengths, which must involve a focus on teaching undergraduates. Those who don't switch course, he said, are likely to fail.