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2012 ACE Professional Award

Imagine a Truly 21st Century Land-Grant University

Dave King

Association for Communication Excellence International Meeting

June 13, 2012, Annapolis, Maryland


Imagine what a truly 21st Century Land-Grant university will look like...and what role you will play in making it what it is.

It will be a place that offers a different approach, as different as 150 years ago when the Land-Grant system was envisioned by Justin Morrill.

It will not be one of the 30 or so current Land-Grants claiming to be in the “top 10.” It will probably not be one of the "20 Land Grants in 2020" that would be the result of aggregation and consolidation that some predicted in the mid-90s. … But we're not to 2020 yet, so who knows.

So what will it be?

It will be a place that models engagement. We've been practicing outreach for 100 years, but what about true engagement? A truly 21st Century Land Grant is a place made up of faculty and leaders who listen as much as we talk, who learn as much as we teach. It will be a place of open access that shares as much as it protects.

A truly 21st Century Land Grant will be a place that understands the value of our inherent competitive advantage in the information marketplace—that being our 100 years of successful face-to-face problem solving and learning.

It will be a place that understands the need to compete head-on with major competitors. Competition with who, you ask? Perhaps a yet-to-be education-information conglomerate, like Google/Phoenix. Think about that. Who else takes on a competitor like that effectively? A truly 21st Century Land-Grant does and wins. Why? Because we focus on the learner. We listen to their needs and learn and adapt to their expectations.

Imagine a university where instruction covers the continuum from individual interaction with professors to many, many students learning together and interacting with world-class experts on campus and off. Where blended courses are the norm, and most students culminate their formal instruction off campus working from within the business, or non-profit, or corporate, or community location that they will continue in after graduation. Where more than half the total student population is off campus advancing toward their degrees while working professionally full-time. Where what we know from 100 years of working with people in their personal and professional communities actually instructs our on campus learning opportunities, as well as adapting our off campus Outreach work.

Imagine a university where research is truly discovery and provides access to data and information in broad and open forums that include both students and professionals in their discipline. Where publishing in recognized scientific journals is still critical, but as much innovation is vetted by users in a vast community of experts on-campus and off who contribute to global solutions in a collaborative and sometimes real-time fashion. Where citizen science is recognized as having value. Where open science and crowd-sourced problem solving become effective tools in our research world. Where a research agenda is built by listening to the ultimate users of our science and solutions; those users make up a 100 year-old human network...a network we have built and nurtured made of people in more than 3,000 communities around the country and our myriad of other partners and learners.

Imagine a university where outreach focuses on engaging and enabling communities—both of place and of interest. Where the new paradigm is not one of distribution of information but one of access to information, providing true and unfettered access to the university-knowledge base.

Where we create a spectrum of access that starts with raw data, then leads to Extension learning modules and continues to full credit courses. Where we act as curators providing context and rationale for the solutions available. Where a semantic Web-environment is built that provides unique and customized access to data and information in ways that shift to effectively meet the needs of individuals. Where the university serves as a convener of partners to solve problems…as much as the unique expert of the past. Where the university is a navigator in the vast sea of digital knowledge.

Imagine a university where libraries are centers of knowledge management and development. Where librarians are decentralized partners in all disciplines who provide the expertise to tag and link information at the ground level so that it is accessible in ways that have yet to be invented in the digital world.

Imagine a university that fosters life-long learning so that students are true learners who never assume they have finished their education. Where student/learners move to an off-campus professional environment assuming they will maintain an Extension connection to their home campus for new ideas and solutions to the challenges they face in their professional lives, and beyond.

A truly 21st Century Land-Grant university—continuing to fulfill its long standing mandate to provide access to the knowledge base of the university in ways that other universities are only now learning—will be all these things and more. It will as different from its competitors and pretenders as it was 150 years ago at the inception. It will be the foundation for every new innovation that can be dreamed by the best and brightest both on campus and off.

So what will be your role in making this happen? That is up to you. Those of you who step up in an intentional way to help address the roadblocks to this vision will be successful. Those who wait for someone to ask you to help, will not. Everyone in this room has a professional role that will help lead to future success of our institutions.

The Extension mothership continues to lose market share in every community in the country. The ability to remain politically viable has been eroding for decades. The best and brightest among us must not assume that evolution will be good to us. We must assume more active intentional roles in linking our educational, instructional, and problem-solving efforts to the problems of people in the real world. And then providing the access channels they use to find what they want when they want it. It is time to step up, my friends. If not now…then when? If not you…then who?

As for ACE--and the ACE Leadership in particular--I think there are clear paths that we as an organization must recognize. Reinvigorate the ACE Leadership Institute. Intentionally focus professional development on issues that lead to a vision of future success rather than random proposals. Help us understand what it takes to lead from within our organizations and within institutions. See the future...and help each one of us, no matter where we reside professionally, to see our role in making the vision a reality.

Thanks again for this humbling honor. My 36 years in ACE have been great. But, I'm not done yet. To quote my favorite calypso poet, Jimmy Buffett...

I might as well admit it

There's been a time or two

When I contemplated retiring for a while

But a hundred years from now

They'll still be asking how

As they gaze upon my taxidermic smile


                 Jimmy Buffett, Last Man Standing


Dave King
Associate Provost
Outreach and Engagement
Oregon State University
541 737 3379 EESC
541 737 3810 Ecampus
541 602 2386 cell
422 Kerr Adm Bldg
Corvallis, Oregon 97331

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