College Planners Discuss How They Push for Change

July 09, 2012

This year's annual conference of the Society for College and University Planning, convening in Chicago this week, will focus on something higher education is not known for: change. The conference organizers note that higher education is under a lot of scrutiny these days, with people questioning its cost and value. For institutional planners, who are trying to navigate the future for colleges and universities, a push for change can be a daunting challenge and exciting prospect.

The conference is bringing a number of speakers who address changes large and small in higher education. The Chronicle caught up with three of those speakers in the podcasts highlighted here.

The first is a conversation with Sanford Shugart, the president of Valencia College in Florida. Mr. Shugart is giving the opening talk at SCUP this year, which will address changing the culture in higher education, and how that stands as the major challenge for the industry. Four cultures have been prominent in higher education history: the monastic culture, the culture of the German institute, the industrial culture, and the "retail culture," where students are "customers" at the higher education "spa." He's not sure what culture is emerging now.

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"Maybe it's a convenience culture," he says. "Maybe it's a digital, open-source culture.... It's in the nature of culture that you cannot see it emerge. You only see it in the rear-view mirror."

The second conversation is with Robert Brodnick, an associate vice president at the University of the Pacific. He proposes bringing something new to institutional planning: design thinking, an approach that blends analytical thinking with creative thinking. It's a process that is not currently widely used in institutional planning, he says. "Given what is happening politically, economically, and in terms of technology, I think people need to think differently about how we plan for the future."

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The third conversation—with Ira Fink, a well-known college planner—focuses on "the time value of campus space." Higher education tends to apply a one-size-fits-all pricing model to its spaces, while other entities—like travel companies, for instance—change the cost of their airline flights or hotel rooms, depending on whether you want to use them at times of peak demand. Should higher education do the same?

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