Byron's Babbles

Iron Triangle of Higher Education

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 2, 2011

I had the opportunity to be a part of a group of agriculture industry leaders providing input to Purdue University’s Presidential Search Committee. I took this role very seriously as I saw myself representing both agriculture and education. The Trustee’s and Search Committee’s goal is to match the skill-sets of the top candidates to what Purdue University needs now and ten years in the future.

This is a tall order given the Iron Triangle of Higher Education: Quality, Cost, and Access. Purdue being in a position to appoint a new President is really a great opportunity at a great time. A time when students must thrive in a global market. This will require what Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, just yesterday said will require “Reimagining how higher education does business.”

“My chief message today is a sobering one,” Secretary Duncan told officials from colleges and universities who were gathered this week at the annual Federal Student Aid conference in Las Vegas. “I want to ask you, and the entire higher education community, to look ahead and start thinking more creatively—and with much greater urgency—about how to contain the spiraling costs of college and reduce the burden of student debt on our nation’s students.” Click here to read his speech. Also, click here to learn more about the administration’s pay-as-you-earn proposal.

Given Secretary Duncan’s call for creative thinking and controlling the cost of higher education and amount of debt students incur I would like to provide a bullet list of the characteristics identified for the new President of Purdue University:

  • high energy
  • long-term
  • familiar with the Land Grant University
  • passion for Indiana
  • appreciation of agriculture and extension programs
  • research and acquisition savvy
  • international presence
  • able to bridge academia, research and applied science
  • global stature – we have to do Indiana and the globe right
  • its ok to have have someone with a shorter pedigree to have someone who can be longer term
  • Midwestern values
  • vision for advancing Purdue University
  • balance strategic direction set by the board of trustees, but also foster an entrepreneurial approach
  • does not change for the sake of change, but understands why
  • able to make smart, quick decisions
  • surrounds themselves with smart people
  • visionary
  • public person
  • a person who will know how to staff themselves with the right people
  • understands the role of delivery, branding, and recognition
  • the person is more important than the resume
  • understands public/private partnership
  • engagement
  • promotes Indiana value-added agriculture
  • accessible
  • transformational leader
  • superb organizational leader

I am sure you can imagine the energy of this almost 3 hour discussion. Purdue Trustee John Hardin said at the end of the discussion, “On a bad day this person needs to be God.” Not an easy task to find a person who can do all of the above. Keep in mind the search committee has had 40+ discussions like the one I was involved in.

Personally, I want a transformational, unconventional leader who will think, as Secretary Arne Duncan has called for, creatively and reimagine higher education. Specifically I want Purdue University to be a leader in bridging the gap between p-12 education and higher education. I continue to stress that with all of the great education reforms in p-12 education in Indiana occurring that higher education, including Purdue University, must also make reforms accordingly.

Think about it, wouldn’t it be great if a students circumstance did not determine what type of education he or she received from pre-k all the way through college? Let’s all be unconventional leaders and solve the Iron Triangle of Higher Education – Quality, Cost, and Access.

One Response

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  1. Bob D. Gautreaux said, on December 11, 2011 at 3:03 am

    Thanks for sharing the quality information.


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