Changing Relationships: The Society and the University

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A Summary of
A seminar given at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburg, Scotland


Dr. John Psarouthakis, Executive Editor, an online magazine, Distinguished Visiting Fellow,
Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh,

Today, we find ourselves in a fast-paced, globally interconnected, knowledge-driven age. This age presents its own instabilities and dangers, but also is rich in promise and opportunity driven by an unprecedented acceleration of knowledge, understanding, and technology, with ever more open national borders. As the information and genetic revolutions gather momentum, and great environmental challenges loom ever larger, society will, as always, look to university graduates, faculty, and staff for fundamental research, and for creative understanding and application of the knowledge they generate. But society also will expect the universities and their people to play an increasingly important leadership role in many dimensions of world affairs. We must begin to prepare for this by increasing ourunderstanding of and partnership with, Community, business, industry, and governments in new endeavors of learning, research, and problem solving. This will be an important element of the research university of the future. It is an exciting time for universities.

Some views of things to come:

–The strength of economies, regions, and nations will be determined in large measure by technological and organizational innovation. This innovation must be built upon a foundation of new research in science, engineering, and management, and communicating all that to our communities.

–Humankind’s advances will depend increasingly on new integrative approaches to complex systems, problems, and structures. Design, synthesis, and synergy across traditional disciplinary boundaries will be essential elements of both education and research. Engineering, for example, will provide instruments and techniques to facilitate the rapid advancement of the biological and physical sciences. Biology and physics, in turn, will create revolutionary new approaches to engineering and production, as well as to health care.

–Research universities will grow in importance as the primary source of fundamental research and scholarship in the United States and other parts of the world.

–The need for leaders to solve the complex problems of the modern world requires a new paradigm for the research university itself – one in which industry, academia, and governments work together in effective partnership. For example, the quality of our environment, the sustainability of economies, and the efficient use of our material and energy resources, will depend upon sound scientific and engineering knowledge leading to action by all three partners.

–Information technology is dramatically altering learning and working. Many faculty will change their teaching role from one of lecturing to one of shaping and guiding the use of electronically-available information. They will lead team efforts in both campus-based and electronic communities.

–Our security and quality of life will require that all people work together to form a coherent, productive society, built on common values as well as rich diversity. This will not occur unless it is fostered within our schools and universities.

–Finally, the future will demand new leaders – leaders with a deep understanding also of science and engineering who possess the ability, values, and desire to apply their knowledge wisely and creatively to the betterment of our societies.

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