From Strategy to Reality is an excellent chronicle of the power of a community to make big things happen while creating an exciting journey. Stevenson is a special place making a profound difference in the lives of its students and in the community. In many ways, Stevenson’s future is more about aspiration than certainty.
There have been some recent changes in the way the public views the value of a college degree. However, it is unwise to alter perspectives completely, especially since we live in a time of profound complexity requiring special training. A college degree remains important.
But surely the future direction of higher education and Stevenson specifically will be different. The emphasis, for example, on career education will continue to grow. The reason Stevenson developed its Career ArchitectureSM program in the first place was to prepare students for a 21st century profession. Career planning will always be an important part of a person’s life.
This emphasis on careers will change both in the United States and in the world. As we envision an increased focus on career education, we also see an expanded interest in Stevenson and its programs. Along these lines, Stevenson will continue to attract students from all over.
The creation of Stevenson’s six Schools is a precursor for academic innovation during the next 25 years. We will continue to develop highly specialized programs in our Schools to serve an ever-evolving society. At present, we are anticipating the creation of a School of Health Professions to meet changing global society needs.
We are well aware of the now-pervasive international development of online instruction. Although not for everyone, online learning is certainly designed for working adults. Stevenson’s online division has grown dramatically during the past 15 years, from a very small unit in the year 2000 to an academic enterprise of nearly 1,500 students and a $10 million operating budget. We are now researching market needs and plan to introduce our first online doctoral degree program in the next several years.
In the past 10 years, we have invested nearly $150 million in new campus buildings. At present, we are completing an exciting and major renovation of a 180,000-square-foot building for the School of the Sciences, including an expansion to our recently opened School of Design. We still hope to finalize the purchase of additional land in Owings Mills that will bring together 300 acres to accommodate anticipated enrollment expansion.
While the construction of on-campus facilities seems to run counter to the expansion of online instruction, based upon our analysis, we believe that Stevenson University will continue to be a popular institution for undergraduates. Like banks and ATM machines, traditional residential colleges will not disappear.
In the early development of Career Architecture, Stevenson focused on innovation and creativity to help prepare for the future. We worked with the California-based IDEO innovation firm to help us expand our career services efforts and to learn how to innovate by using brainstorming techniques.
Underlying any predictions for the future is the economic reality that organizational size is critical for success. When we first began to expand in 2000, we were concerned about the vulnerability of being small in size in both enrollments as well as budget. It is difficult to adapt to market changes and to expand successful programs without adequate enrollment. Stevenson plans to continue to expand its undergraduate enrollment and to significantly increase our online program revenue during the next 10 years.
Student success was always the hallmark of Villa Julie College and remains so for Stevenson. It is through the energy of what we call The Stevenson Way that we can truly realize the mission of helping our students grow. The Stevenson Way embodies our four core values: promoting a sense of community, fostering learning, instilling integrity, and achieving excellence. We need to respect our students; help them achieve their best within a framework of integrity; and then extend this reach to the community, students, faculty, and staff—all within an organization of passion, significance, and accomplishment. Further, we need to work to understand our students and our society and attempt to align them. It is through a focus on our students and their values that we achieve the powerful University motto, “For learning, for living.”
I’d like to offer some concluding comments I shared during my presidential inauguration address about our past and the importance of our future:There is a powerful illustration of shared purpose from NASA, an organization that struggled to connect the highest possible aspirations with its employees and a nation. A visitor, touring the launch facility, spotted a worker sweeping the floor. She asked, “What is your job here?” The worker replied, “To put a man on the moon.” An important illustration of how visionary journeys can connect us all.
We see a world longing for love, children seeking protection, parents needing guidance, the sick wanting help, nations needing food. All of these challenges may well be within the reach of higher education’s potential.
The 19th century philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “A spark of fire is infinitely deep but a mass of fire reaching from earth upward into heaven, this is the sign of the robust, united, burning radiant soul.”
So when we pick up our brooms tomorrow to sweep the floor, let’s remember we all play a part in creating a better world. There are many people who need the help that only higher education can provide. And that maybe [Stevenson University] and higher education can assist in making this journey more meaningful and more possible for all. And, keep in mind, there are still many planets to explore.
I believe it is important that Stevenson University’s future is bright and powerful. There is still much to do in the world.
Kevin J. Manning, Ph.D.