Guide Leadership as Service: A New Model for Higher Education in a New Century

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This provocative and readable discussion of leadership in higher education argues that leadership is essentially an act of service; that the more responsible the leadership position, the greater the responsibility to serve. KENT A.


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Leadership as Service is an important work that breaks new ground in the area of servantleadership and higher education. In the tradition of Robert K.

Higher education in the United States

Greenleaf and Parker Palmer, Kent Farnsworth's book contains powerful insights into the nature of learning, leading, and serving others. The result has been a remarkable surge of interest by prospective students. Since , the number of applications for admission has increased more than 38 percent. More than 9, students applied for the 1, positions in this fall's freshman class.

With an acceptance rate of about 41 percent, Elon is now a highly selective private university. Elon faculty and academic programs are also receiving national attention. Our graduate programs in physical therapy D. Elon's Phoenix athletics program has successfully completed the transition to NCAA Division I and now competes as a member of the prestigious Southern Conference with institutions such as Davidson, Furman and Wofford, which share our ideals about the nature of the student-athlete experience. Finally, our beautiful campus and land resources are tremendous strategic assets.

Leadership for the 21st century: The intersection of the traditional and the new

When Princeton Review cited it as the second most beautiful campus in the nation, we more fully realized what a tremendous resource the campus is in recruiting students, faculty and staff. Since that time, the campus has been formally designated as a botanical garden. Elon has indeed arrived at an envious position, ready to chart an important new course at a time of great challenge to higher education. While many colleges and universities are experiencing declining graduation rates, Elon's rates are among the best in the nation … and rising. While other schools are facing criticism that graduates are unable to perform in the real world, Elon has found ways to connect students with the hands-on experiences that give them a special edge in the marketplace.

In December , just prior to the senior staff mid-year retreat, I convened a group of approximately 35 early to mid-career faculty and staff to discuss the changes that have taken place at Elon over the course of the past five years and especially the ways students have changed , to ponder what lies ahead for Elon beyond the New Century Elon strategic plan, and to help senior staff better understand challenges faced by faculty and staff in their daily work. One of the most useful metaphors that was invented by a participant in that meeting was prompted by the visual aid of a large campus map.

Better Curriculum

On the map, property owned by the University was colored green, while adjacent land not owned by Elon was white. It was rather a statement about focusing future attention on deepening existing programs, making distinctive programs even more innovative, and making good programs excellent.

21st Century Skills: The Challenges Ahead - Educational Leadership

This is not to say, of course, that Elon will never add another new program, department, or school. It was also not a statement advocating stagnation or maintaining the status quo. An Elon student can best explain why this university is enjoying unprecedented success.

Junior Geoffrey Lynn, a chemistry major from Deland, Fla. When Newsweek asked to interview a student for its "Hottest Colleges" issue, we asked Geoff to explain his Elon experience. Here are excerpts from his response:. When I talk to students at other universities, they tell me about their assignments and work, and it seems like school is something distant from their real-life objectives. From there, we seek to publish our findings in peer-reviewed journals, or present our work at research conferences. In my two years at Elon, the undergraduate research program has provided me with two semesters worth of research grants, and they have provided the finances for me to attend five professional conferences.

I was able to present my work at all but one of the conferences. All types of opportunities exist across all of the disciplines, and they are all aimed at providing students with a working knowledge. Geoff has effectively outlined everything that is right about Elon's approach to teaching and learning. While many universities promote student engagement in marketing materials, all of our student surveys and independent program quality studies tell us that Elon is one of the best in actually "walking the talk," blending academics and co-curricular programs into a seamless learning experience.

It is clear that our best strategy for the future is to concentrate on enhancing existing strengths, making sure that all Elon students, no matter what their majors or abilities, have the kind of experiences Geoff describes. If we are to be an effective national leader in engaged learning, we must enrich and deepen what we do best. Another challenge the University must face is to articulate to our many external publics the value of a liberal arts and sciences education and its relevancy to a 21st century democracy.

The aims of a liberal arts education—critical thinking, persuasive communication, quantitative and scientific reasoning, understanding of world cultures and languages, the cultivation of the love of learning—are enduring values at Elon that we as a community must constantly express. As a university that is fulfilling its destiny, Elon stands at a pivotal point in its history. The pieces are in place to lead the way to a new definition of quality in American higher education.

We have a good idea about the next strategic steps that need to be taken — deepening our programs and fully delivering on the promise of quality that draws thousands of students to this university. The limiting factor is an inadequate resource stream. Elon is far too dependent on tuition revenue and enrollment growth, and we are fast approaching the day when substantial increases in those two areas will be impractical.

Eighty percent of Elon's operating revenue comes from tuition, room and board, compared with 47 percent at other top private universities in the South. At the same time, our budget is inadequately supplemented by an endowment that is much smaller than levels at peer institutions.

Leadership as Service

Investment income makes up about 7 percent of Elon's annual budget compared with 29 percent at other top Southern private universities. To understand our challenges, it is helpful to walk through a brief primer on Elon's finances. I liken it to a series of valves that control the budget. Think through this model and consider the benefits and consequences of adjusting each valve:. Moderating enrollment growth and building a stronger endowment revenue stream are the central challenges in providing for a secure future for Elon.


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We need new thinking and creative strategies to find ways to expand Elon's endowment over the next decade while slowing enrollment growth and keeping tuition affordable. Building a larger endowment is a daunting task and will require the contributions and creativity of the entire community. We must achieve the same high level of focus, discipline, planning, and commitment that Elon has applied to accomplishing other monumental goals.

Deepening In December , just prior to the senior staff mid-year retreat, I convened a group of approximately 35 early to mid-career faculty and staff to discuss the changes that have taken place at Elon over the course of the past five years and especially the ways students have changed , to ponder what lies ahead for Elon beyond the New Century Elon strategic plan, and to help senior staff better understand challenges faced by faculty and staff in their daily work. We have a good idea about where to start: We need to endow the many programs that involve students and faculty in research activities and engaged learning projects.

The faculty and students who work together on the kind of experiences Geoff describes are hungry for expanded support. They are doing amazing things with minimal resources, and will make excellent use of additional funds. We intend to expand our efforts to internationalize the campus, expanding the world view of on-campus programs and giving more students access to study abroad experiences. We need to endow more opportunities for faculty development, summer support, and sabbaticals to keep the Elon faculty at the forefront of their fields and provide funding for faculty and staff to make contributions on the national stage through professional activities.

We must increase our outreach to employers and organizations so more students can obtain life-changing internship experiences. We must more fully fund volunteer service and leadership programs that leverage the incredible energy and altruism Elon students bring to solving social problems. We must expand scholarship programs, giving deserving students of all means and backgrounds the opportunity to attend Elon.

Scholarships for students with special talents in academic fields, the arts, athletics and other areas will be especially important to ensure a rich and diverse student body.