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Business Officer Magazine
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Transformational Trajectory

When circumstances call for your institution to spread its wings, faculty and staff will need to get on board with the program. Three examples show how to change your image, and perhaps your world, in positive ways.

Edited by Apryl Motley

Judging from the record-breaking success of the 2007 live-action film Transformers, based on the toy franchise of that name, we are fascinated by the notion that somewhere there exists—in this case on Cybertron—the ability to almost instantaneously transform the world in which we live. Of course dramatic change seldom comes without conflict, as is demonstrated by the ongoing battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. Both groups want to change the world, but they have very different agendas for doing so.

Changing the nature, function, or condition of your college or university might seem drastic or even completely out of the question. But is it really? Your institution’s ability to transform itself over time may well be the key to its longevity, especially in these unpredictable days.

What then might be the agenda for change on your campus? It might be less of a choice than a mandate from your state legislature requiring that your institution “transform” itself into one of the top 20 public research universities in the country by 2020. That’s been the focal point for change at the University of Kentucky, Lexington.

Perhaps it takes the form of totally remaking your image in the higher education community through physical, environmental, and experiential upgrades to your campus, much like the initiatives undertaken at High Point University, High Point, North Carolina.

Or significant alteration may mean expanding online course offerings to effectively manage student demand and financial resources, as is the case at the College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas.

The literal meaning of the word transformation is “going beyond the existing nature or function to effect major change.” These institutions were willing and able to do just that. In some instances, their efforts meant that stakeholders had to adapt to a new paradigm. As a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis learns to fly, many faculty and staff had to reallocate their energy and expertise to new projects. Their collective and focused work went beyond form and function to better serve their students and communities.

Here’s a closer look at three transformations in progress and the inspirations and lessons that they offer on building higher education institutions for the future.

APRYL MOTLEY, Columbia, Maryland, covers higher education issues for Business Officer.