Spurred by our incoming president, Ángel Cabrera, Mason will host a discussion of issues and innovations in higher education on Nov. 2-3 of this year. Most seats will be available for the Mason community — a ticketing system will be announced later. Speakers will combine distinguished visitors with Mason faculty.
Topics will include what we increasingly know about more effective teaching and better learning outcomes (and their assessment); lessons to be learned from for-profits and other current experiments; and additional opportunities for uses of technology. A key theme is the conundrum or tension between what we should be doing to improve learning and how we must respond to growing fiscal stringency — a crucial balancing act.
A final panel, hopefully summarizing and extending previous discussion, will focus on how to effect change in big public universities (even ones with traditions of innovation). We’ll also feature a TEDx discussion Friday night.
The goal is to promote discussion, not to lay down some elaborate new plan for Mason. Elements of the conversation will surely further the framework of the next strategic planning operation, which will kick off in later fall as well, but the forum is a stimulus, not a manifesto.
We will have participants who are eager to disrupt higher education (whatever that precisely means), but also many who want to be careful to preserve existing strengths. A commitment to some change will almost certainly predominate, but there will be wide disagreement about what kinds of change (see the conundrum above).
It should be an interesting and certainly timely opportunity to think about our future and to have access to a distinguished and diverse set of speakers including our new president. Again, more precise details to be forthcoming.