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Future-Focused Higher Education


The landscape of higher education is changing dramatically--shifting demography; decreased appropriations; increased demands for access, equity and social justice; and rapid advances in technology present both challenges and opportunities. In today’s rapidly evolving higher education, demand calls for learning experiences that prepare students to critically analyze and tackle the challenges of our global, technology-driven society.

Nationally, potential modifications to the Higher Education Act, Congressional Review Act and Elementary and Secondary Education Action (ESSA), are forcing institutions to address complex educational challenges such as the funding and affordability of higher education, school violence, and issues of access and equity.

Internationally, the adoption of transnational initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, call for a new generation of innovative, culturally competent, makers and leaders who are needed to address complex educational challenges such as the funding and affordability of higher education, school violence, and issues of access and equity.

Preparing for the future requires an integrated approach to leadership development that values multiple and divergent perspectives, unleashes the power of technology for data-driven and innovative problem-solving, and empowers diverse learners to enact meaningful change. Both the history of higher education policy and the mounting demands created by this current context compel programs to learn from the past, while generating new knowledge and developing skilled leaders to address the persistent and emerging problems ahead.

In addition, the most recent Inside Higher Ed survey finds that a majority of college leaders today worry about the nation’s capacity to teach, train and develop a deep and talented pool of future leaders for tomorrow. In the developed world, the link between education and earnings has tended to follow a simple rule: get as much formal education as you can early in life and reap the rewards for the rest of your career. This principle has come to be known as the “education wage premium”. But the formula of more schooling resulting in economic benefits is no longer a guarantee in today’s more complex world. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that only 16% of Americans think that a four-year degree prepares students very well for a high-paying job in the 21st Century economy. Whether this sentiment is explained by a cyclical effect of the most recent financial crisis and its economic aftershock or is simply a matter of supply whereas more people attain degrees, the associated “premium” goes down, the value of college degrees has come under intense scrutiny. Educators and political leadership need to employ a full-court press on questions of value, cost, and relevance. In a digital world where life-long learning has become an economic imperative, higher education must adapt to a rapidly shifting economic landscape.

Innovating for Change

The need for effective, future-focused leadership in higher education has arguably never been more important. At Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP), we aim to prepare students to be innovative, entrepreneurial, and nimble through our commitment to technology-driven formal and informal learning experiences that support the growth and well-being of communities around the world.

Opening the Davidson Center for Learning Technology, envisioned by Dean Helen Easterling Williams and led through faculty expertise and graduate student scholars, is an example of Pepperdine University’s commitment to future-focused education. The Davidson Center serves as a collaborative innovation hub and maker space accessible to faculty, students, and staff for high-tech, hands-on learning. Backed by learning strategies, techniques, and innovative pedagogy—the Center aims to spark meaningful and impactful experiences by nurturing technology explorations and developing immersive learning experiences.

The need for effective, future-focused leadership in higher education has arguably never been more important.

Because complex problems require multidisciplinary approaches, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology offers an integrated approach to academic and skill development by utilizing a Core and Concentration program design. In Core classes, candidates across programs apply a wide range of professional experience and expertise to tackle today’s pressing issues and develop core competencies. This multidisciplinary approach encourages innovating thinking and multidimensional problem solving. During the Concentration phase, candidates focus on developing deep academic and technical knowledge to lead change initiatives in specific contexts.

Technology is front and center throughout the hybrid program. Following the guidance of the International Society for Technology in Education, candidates exhibit visionary leadership by strategically employing digital-age technology to enact transformational change. Candidates learn digital storytelling using transmedia, for example, to increase message impact and become global collaborators by communicating using a variety of digital tools.

The Graduate School of Education and Psychology at Pepperdine University recognizes that the many challenges confronting higher education today will require a new model of leadership. As more and more jobs require some postsecondary education and training, future leaders will be expected to expand efficiencies with technology and improve outcomes, all within a context of heightened accountability and decreased resources. For these reasons, GSEP at Pepperdine University developed 5 new Master of Science (MS) degrees to prepare students for many changes that will come ahead with rigorous and relevant coursework designed and lead by experienced faculty.

Starting classes in fall 2018, Pepperdine’s new MS degrees are: MS degree in Learning Design and Innovation, MS degree in Leadership in PreK-12 Education, MS degree in Leadership in Higher Education, MS degree in Leadership in Learning Technologies, and a MS degree in Organizational Leadership and Learning. As technology rapidly evolves and will continue to do so, gaining the necessary skills to stay relevant is an essential. These 5 MS degrees at Pepperdine GSEP equip students with competencies and skill sets to be ready for the careers of tomorrow, not for the jobs of today.

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