I grew up playing varsity sports and for motivation, it helped to have a specific competitor in mind in order to literally go that extra mile or to do that extra set of sit-ups. Similarly, early in my professional career, when I was a Director of Admissions and Financial aid, it was motivating to keep in mind a competitor university.
          Today, as we consider the UNC System, and its place in digital learning, I find it helpful to think about who are the digital learning leaders today and how can compete with them as we innovate in our own UNC way.  While compete vs cooperate is often anathema in higher education, the trends are clear, higher education is undergoing dramatic change and some universities will use digital learning to their advantage in attracting students, faculty, donors and even changing the way rankings are assessed.   We need to follow these changes and adapt as necessary…and not wait too long to do it.

          For those of you who have been in my office, I have three clocks on the wall.  One West Coast, one East Coast and one in the middle for Phoenix, the home of Arizona State University (ASU) and its President Michael Crow.  President Crow has his share of supporters and detractors but one thing is clear, he has transformed ASU from a relatively unknown “party school” to a powerhouse known for its innovation.
          There are many articles on the changes at ASU but this article, How Michael Crow took ASU from a party school to the nation’s ‘most innovative’ university provides some insight into President Crow and some of the things he is doing to build a strong foundation for ASU’s success over the next decade. It is a very long read but it is well worth it.  Just like Patton devised a successful strategy by reading Rommel’s book, so too can we by reading about other digital innovators.

Some intersting quotes from the article:

“President Crow either will transform ASU into a first-class research university that just happens to be the single largest public university in the country, or he will fail. And should he fail, Arizona then may continue on its historic path — ceding its brightest students and its prospects for an advanced economy to other states.” a 2007 opinion piece in the The Arizona Republic warned. 

It’s a lot, no doubt. But for Crow, it’s just a start. He wants ASU to be the “greatest public university known to man.”

Since Crow got the ASU president gig 17 years ago, he charged at full speed, single-mindedly focused on his goal of creating a public university unlike any in the world. 

His massive reinvention of the university didn’t always go smoothly, especially in the beginning. 

The “innovations” he put in place at ASU, and his outspokenness in defending these ideas, have given him a nation name in higher education and beyond. They’re also a source of criticism about him. 

As ASU grew, one key driver of the university stalled: the amount of money the state spent on higher education. 

ASU’s student body doubled from 2002 to 2018, from about 55,000 students when Crow arrived to more than 110,000 last year. 

State funding during that time increased from $312 million to $320 million, or less than 3 percent, according to ASU. 

“What he’s done at ASU is probably the most remarkable, stunning story in the last number of decades in terms of transforming public education at the college level,” Schultz said.