The Future of State Universities

Today I am at the Future of State Universities conference in Dallas. The event calls together university presidents, provosts, state governors and other key institutional players to rethink the future of higher education. No expense has been spared … everybody invited attends for free, the schwag is top-notch, our agenda is on an iPad handed to you as you enter, its at the Four Seasons where they have put me up in a fancy “Villa”. It feels a bit icky and elitist to my small-town Nebraska blood, but I guess this is how you get really busy and important people together for a couple of days. The organizers, Jeb Bush and Jim Hunt working along with Academic Partnerships, have framed the event as a chance to re-invent the university in the face of a long list of challenges and problems we are all too familiar with: budget cuts and diminishing state support (while demand is growing) … poor results (“The US is falling behind”) … high youth unemployment (“even as employers complain that they can’t find qualified workers”) … and decades of rising costs that leave many wondering whether or not college is still worth it. The goal is to brainstorm how to increase access to higher education by lowering costs while raising standards. The speaker list is phenomenal and a key reason why I just couldn’t say no to the opportunity. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair kicks things off followed by talks by innovators like Arizona State’s Michael Crow and Sal Khan (founder of the Khan academy). Interspersed with the innovators are key policy makers like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and key institutional leaders like the president of the American Association of Community Colleges and the presidents of various accreditation boards. I don’t speak until late afternoon, so I’ll try to keep you all posted with summaries, since I don’t think this is live-streamed or available in any other format.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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7 Responses

  1. Kelsey Ruger says:

    Thanks. I wish I could have attended this conference. Looking for to your blog posts.

  2. Gabriel says:

    Please, keep us posted. Thanks for the update!

  3. Peter Blake says:

    Prof Wesch spoke at the end of the day when everyone should be struggling to stay awake. He held our attention and did his part show us opportunities to address our challenges. Indeed the world is on fire, but we can do something about it.

  4. Mike Murphy says:

    Thanks Mike. Transforming education is a global phenomenon. We are all needed as participants. Keep the posts coming.

  5. ted irving says:

    Here is my take on college…a scam. Ok, not entirely. I have a BFA and an MA and I made them work for me. No regrets. However, since 1994 I’ve had a dual career in television production and K12 CTE education. Because of that, I’ve partnered with local universities in the Houston, TX area and some in other states. I can only speak of my area, Mass Communications/Radio/TV & Film. Small to mid-sized colleges appear to be, “ripping-off,” students. I’ve seen apathetic conditions with no outcry. What are those? Small to mid-sized and some large universities, despite the economic downturn, are experts and geniuses and acquiring funding. Once they get the funds they put in marvelous and spectacular broadcasting and film production facilities. What is laughable and a crime is that the trend for post-secondary grants and private sector funds never goes toward hiring. And I mean hiring professionals who have worked in TV and film that can actually teach the students. I can’t tell you how many of my students from high school, where I was the director of an advanced media program, are dissapointed with their college because they were sold on the eye-candy, but once they arrived on campus they received a rude awakening…NONE OF THEIR PROFESSORS EVER WORKED IN TV OR FILM! LOL WTH?! And most universities justify this. A kid coming out of a high school media program is light years away from the professors teaching them. It so absurd. Laughable even. Until you realize students are spending hard earned monies to attend schools where they are only learning by using YouTube training videos. Many never get past their high school knowledge level. The current U.S. system of colleges is blindly focused on hiring mostly PhD’s for research, but that severely harms your hybrid areas of academia such as TV and film production that falls into the area of trade as well as academia. A friend of mine is a PhD at the University of Nebraska and he admits this flaw, yet most of his colleagues are aware of it and also aware that the schools are light years behind in their thinking. These days a college grad needs theory and hands on, applied science, practical training and knowledge. The combination of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois. Finally, why won’t schools hire professionals with the skills and at least a Bachelors? Tenure. Those professors that are tenured would raise a massive stink if a filmmaker was brought in with the skillset and paid a comparable salary. Of course this works in California, home of Hollywood. But everywhere else…forget it! This is when civil disobedience is needed. Students should be complaining like crazy that they are not learning. They are wasting their money and time. But the, “protest,” mind of our collective has been diminished and most of us in the states operate as cattle.

  6. Walker Davison says:

    I’m a higschool student right now taking a grade 11 media class and really enjoying it. I never really thought about going to school for anything to do with media, but now that I’ve taken this course, I’m really thinking about continuing through university for media studies. Except, after reading that last comment I don’t want to put the money and time into something that’s not worth it, you know? I’ve been doing my research about different profs but haven’t really found anything. I’d love to be in a class with Wesch. Anyways, if anyone has any ideas about any profs or even schools that are worth looking into please let me know!

  7. Steph & Giselle says:

    We are in a grade 11 media class and we’re from Canada.
    We study you all the time and we find the YouTube videos our teacher shows us of your work to be informative.
    We were wanting to ask you what your favourite speaker at this conference?