(May 29, 2011)

Contact: Rick DelaHaya, Centenary News Services, 318.869.5073

Editorial: Colleges can no longer compete like they used to

SHREVEPORT, La. (Centenary News Service) — The following editorial by Dr. Michael Hemphill, Provost and Dean of the College, appeared Sunday, May 29 in the Shreveport Times:

Dr. Michael Hemphill
Dr. Michael Hemphill

Higher education is at a crossroads. And the ability to effectively prepare students as leaders in an increasingly complex world is at stake. A paradigm shift from the traditional classroom experiences where the curriculum is divided into distinct silos of content, to a model that focuses on students turning their learning into meaningful action is absolutely necessary.

We have watched locally as state universities make drastic cuts in response to budget pressures. Likewise, many small liberal arts colleges like Centenary are concerned not only about how to stay competitive but how to remain open. Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., is the latest to close its doors.

Colleges can no longer compete like they used to. There are complete universities operating online, for-profit institutions in every other strip mall, and hundreds of free online courses from top universities like MIT and Yale. Because of technology and economic realities, the ability of a student to merely access content will only grow.

Schools that remain focused on the traditional academic method — the delivery of content in a classroom — will continue to have a tougher time competing against more pervasive, accessible, and less expensive approaches. But, the brick and mortar school is not doomed if it provides an enhanced educational experience to meet the needs of a dramatically changing student body.

Today's youth, known as the "millennial" generation, are fundamentally different. In Eric Greenberg's book "Generation We," he describes "a generation that believes in the power of human ingenuity and creativity to develop solutions to the problems we face" and one that "is deeply concerned about the common good." In sum, students today seek meaningful engagement like never before.

At Centenary, we are moving forward with a sense of renewal and looking as far down the road as we can see. We are addressing integrated global and local challenges by focusing more on what the students learn rather than where — in which departments — they take their courses. We are not content with having our students just sit in class and take notes. Our students will put their learning into action, not after they graduate, but from the moment they arrive on campus as first-year students. In that way, they will learn to effectively and creatively engage the world's challenges in order to help solve problems for the common good.

Colleges and universities must face the new obstacles of higher education as students and graduates face the new obstacles of living in the 21st century. We do not know what the future holds, but we think we are preparing Centenary and our students to face it confidently. We have always connected well with our students, but starting this fall, we will do so in a more intentional way that prepares them to lead in a changing world.

Dr. Michael R. Hemphill is provost and dean of Centenary College in Shreveport.

About Centenary College of Louisiana

Centenary College is a private, four-year arts and sciences college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Founded in 1825, it is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Centenary is one of 16 colleges and universities constituting the Associated Colleges of the South and has been recognized as "One of the Best 371 Colleges" by the Princeton Review and one of "America's Best Colleges" and one of "America's Best Private Colleges" by Forbes.com. In 2008 Centenary College celebrated 100 years in Shreveport and Bossier City.