Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Missed the “Priorities in Global Health” Panel and Discussion?

March 16, 2012 Comments off

Watch it here!


Read the recap here.


Missed the Opening Forum Event, “Fostering Innovation in Organizations”?

March 15, 2012 Comments off

Watch it here!


Click to read Dr. Woods reflections on this Opening Event.

Photos From the Innovation Forum: Zines: Alternative Knowledge and Media Production in the Academy

March 13, 2012 Comments off

Ari Roy and Heath Davis discussed their experience using zines as an alternative and supplement to traditional written papers in an academic setting. In addition, they also talked about their zine work and its links to possibilities for civic engagement outside of the academy. Nora Mukaihata, archives and library manager with Zine Archives and Publishing Project (ZAPP) in Seattle, provided a community organization perspective and talked about ZAPP as a cultural site and highlighted some of the work they have done.

Guest Post: Sandeep Krishnamurthy

February 10, 2012 Comments off

Sandeep Krishnamurthy, Ph.D., was appointed Director of the UW Bothell Business Program on July 1, 2009. Previously, he served as Associate Director overseeing the nationally-ranked MBA program.

He earned the rank of Professor in August 2009. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1996 and a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management (equivalent to an MBA) from XLRI in India. He attended the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Bombay where he obtained his degree in Chemical Engineering in 1988.
Dr. Krishnamurthy is passionate about internationalizing the business curriculum at UW Bothell. He was responsible for a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Turin in Turin, Italy and collaborated in developing a MOU with Tsinghua University in China. He hosted the Indian Ambassador at a special event and was invited to participate in a discussion with the Indian Union Minister of Human Resource Development. The program hosted MBA students from the Sailesh J. Mehta School of Management at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Under his leadership, the UW Bothell Business Program conducted its first Study Abroad to Ghana and hired the first faculty members with expertise in the area of international business.

Read more here.

US Competitiveness

Recently, two professors from the Harvard Business School released a report on US competitiveness that was based on responses from nearly 10,000 HBS alumni. The news is not good and confirms what many experts have argued for a while now. The United States is losing its habitual pre-eminence in the global economic landscape. Others have now overtaken America as destinations for investment and employment. The top five reasons for not locating in the US are talent, politics, regulation, taxes and macro-economic considerations.

Talent, did they say? Really? When did the US lose its edge when it comes to talent? Didn’t we always pride ourselves on the most innovative work-force? Not any more. As an institute of higher education, surely this is where we must focus our attention. If the US is to regain its top-dog status, it has to be done through higher education. What then is the plan of the higher education community to help the US regain its competitive advantage?

Honestly, I don’t see it. While the rest of the world frequently argues for higher education as a strategic public investment, American public universities are caught in a perpetual downward spiral of budget cuts, tuition increases, and, greater class sizes. It is not just depressing, it is boringly predictable.

So, this is the challenge to the forum that Dr. Wood is designing. What can higher education do to help the US become more competitive? If I am businessperson with a billion dollars to spare, why should I invest it in the Puget Sound rather than Beijing, Dublin, Bangalore or Johannesburg?

Guest Post: Skip Walter

January 5, 2012 Comments off

The author of our first guest blog post is Skip Walter, a serial entrepreneur, consultant, angel investor and and affiliate faculty member in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering and an instructor in the Foster Business MBA program at the University of Washington.  As part of his commitment to HCDE, he serves as the Chairman of the External Advisory Board.  Skip has over forty years of experience in executive management, software product development, and new venture development.  He was the founding CEO of Attenex which was sold to FTI Consulting for $91M.  Skip and UW Bothell Professor David Socha regularly collaborate on principles for designing innovative software products and teaching human centered design.  In this blog entry, Skip shares work that he did with the University of Pennsylvania’s Russ Ackoff on “An Idealized Design for a University.”


Russ Ackoff on An Idealized Design for a University


In 1986, while managing Digital Equipment Corporation’s ALL-IN-1 $1B per year office automation development efforts, a colleague sent me a copy of Russ Ackoff’s Creating the Corporate Future (1981).  To paraphrase Russ’s famous introductory lectures on how he came across the process he turned into his Idealized Design methodology through his work with Bell Labs (the story is an introduction to his book Idealized Design:  How to Dissolve Tomorrow’s Crisis …Today), I really wished she had not sent me the book as I spent most of the next year interacting with Russ and his team at the Wharton School instead of doing what I was supposed to do at DEC.

After reading the book and a previous book The SCATT Report:  Designing a National Scientific and Technical Communication System (1976), I immediately called Russ and asked if I could visit him to learn more about his methods and his way of systems thinking.  I shared with him many of the challenges we were facing at Digital Equipment with our rapid growth and with the dramatic impact that the PC revolution and the networking revolution were having on our business.  He graciously agreed to meet and the next day I went to Philadelphia to meet him at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

For most of the next year, I consumed all of Russ’s publications and the many videotapes of his corporate seminars.  In addition, Russ introduced me to several of his corporate clients and included me in some of his consulting engagements.  I was able to see his systems thinking and idealized design methods come to life with his corporate clients as frameworks turned into profitable action.  Along this journey, Russ and I discovered that we were both frustrated with the institution called the university.  He always reminded me that if I wanted to understand the university that I had to realize that it was designed for the professors, not for the students.  I shared with him that my most robust learning at Duke University was my part-time job programming computers in a psychophysiology laboratory in the medical center and with my peer students, not the dull and drab lecture environments in the formal courses I attended.

Out of this shared frustration, we realized that there was an opportunity at Digital Equipment Corporation (then known as DEC which  was acquired by Compaq and then acquired by HP) to revive the falling revenues and profits of our Educational Services business by rethinking both corporate educational units and the university.  I found funding in my budget to hire Russ and his team of graduate students to work on an Idealized Design of a University.  I was not sure whether DEC would be open to the results of the design, but I knew that my extended staff would learn a lot about thinking differently about our enterprise software business.

The final report that Russ and his team provided for the project was completed in January 1987.  As you skim through the document, you can see that the thoughts are somewhat dated.  Yet, between this work and the previous two books mentioned, the foundational thinking for the world we find ourselves in today with the Internet has come to pass.  This foundational thinking is similar to the large scale Idealized Design that Russ performed with the Bell System in the early 1950s that led to almost all of the telecommunications advancements we’ve experienced in the last 60 years.

As I re-read this report, the introduction is as fresh today as it was 25 years ago:

“One who attempts to improve existing universities is very likely to become preoccupied with removing current deficiencies. Unfortunately, getting rid of what one does not want does not necessarily yield what one does want. This is apparent to those who get rid of television programs they do not want by changing channels. They have a high probability of getting programs they want even less. Therefore, effective design of a university must be directed at getting what one wants. not at getting rid of what one does not want.”

“Moreover, improving the performance of parts of a system taken separately – and universities are systems – does not necessarily improve the performance of the system taken as a whole. The performance of a system is never the sum of the performances of its parts; it is the product of their interactions. Therefore, efforts to improve universities should begin with preparation of a comprehensive design of what one would like a university to be ideally.”

“We cannot predict accurately how many of each type of college graduate will be required a decade from now. Even if we could, we would still have the problem of allocating these requirements to individual autonomous institutions. Our ability to forecast manpower requirements is not likely to improve because the rate of technological change will continue to increase.  This will augment an already considerable tendency of college graduates to switch fields after completing their formal education. For example, almost 30 years ago W. G. Ireson (in Peirson, 1959) reported that surveys over a period of thirty years revealed ‘that more than 60 percent of those persons who earned engineering degrees in the United States, either became managers of some kind within ten to fifteen years or left the engineering profession entirely to enter various kinds of business ventures …’ ” (p. 507).

Last spring, I had the pleasure of teaching 80 MBA students a class on technology commercialization.  I really enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of the students who had come up with new business ideas the previous quarter in their entrepreneurship class and entered their plans into the UW Business Plan competition.  I spent a great deal of time outside of class working with ten of the teams and it was clear that they learned far more in this activity then they were learning in my formal class.  I was excited that a new crop of exciting entrepreneurs were interested in starting their own companies.

I took an informal survey and found  that 75% of the students were using the program to give them the skills to leave their current large employer to start their own company.  It hit me that these companies were spending ~$70,000 to send their employees to a program that was energizing them to leave their company.  What is wrong with this picture – for both the university and for the corporations?

In parallel with the discussions with David and Alan,  I am having discussions with a Seattle Venture Capitalist about how broken the startup funding model is.  One of the things that we’d both observed is how the amount of money to start a successful company continues to drop.  Ten years ago when we founded Attenex (sold to FTI Consulting for $91M in 2008), we needed $12M to get to a cash flow positive state.  Today, with advancements in Open Source Software and cheap cloud computing, we could recreate the same company for $1-2M.  It occurred to me that the cost of starting a company is falling rapidly while the cost of a university education (particularly private >$200K) continues to rise rapidly.  We are not far from a cross over point where it costs more to go to university than it does to start a company.

Recently, I’ve shared the Ackoff design with several academic and business professionals.  One of their criticisms is “Well, this might work for professional degrees, but it will never work for an undergraduate degree or a student interested in liberal arts.”  I used to think that as well.  However, in the last several months consulting for a high technology client, I have had the opportunity to interact with their pool of “research analysts.”  These analysts do the background research on markets and products and companies for the rest of the organization.  It turns out that in this very technical company, this group of employees are all very recent graduates of Bay Area schools.  None of them has a technical degree.  They are all history, English, political science and other liberal arts degreed students.  They were hired for their ability to research, think and write.  They are far better than technically trained analysts I’ve worked with in other companies.

I enjoy straddling the university and industry worlds.  I view my teaching in the Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) Department at UW and the Foster Business School as a way to “pay it forward” in return for all of the wonderful mentors who have given me so much over the years.  Yet, as we’ve started re-kindling the “Idealized Design of a University” ideas, I started thinking about how the financial model of a university is so broken in the world of the Internet.  Why do we continue to invest in bricks and mortar when we have the ability to narrowcast any video any time any place?  I made the mistake last week of looking out on my HCDE class and realizing that the students were collectively paying $65,000 to take my class, and my compensation as a part time lecturer was $5,000.  Then it occurred to me that there are several excellent user experience (UX) design studios (not being used in the evening) around Seattle that would be a much better environment to teach in than any generic UW classroom for far less money than a university building.

While the capabilities of the Internet are certainly shaping new ways of thinking about a “university without walls”, there is another not so subtle change occurring all around us.  It is the switch from the content centered world of previous media (in the McLuhan sense) like books, music, TV and movies, to the app centered world of the iPhone, Android, and iPad.  Our content is now becoming dynamic, socialized, and contextualized by becoming an app.  Our content is now alive in ways that those of us who have grown up in a text based world have a hard time coming to grips with.  I now keep asking myself “are we finally seeing the death of the linear book?”

What would the world of work and learning be if at every turn we had “alive” content in context that is easily socialized and distributed?  What if we had expert mentors available for in context consulting for immediate problems and for longer term “degrees”?Fortunately, there are terrific professionals not just thinking about these ideas but testing them and putting them into action.  Cathy Davidson, Duke University, is researching, writing and practicing several of the core ideas related to innovation and the future of learning and work.


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Global Horizons College: A Proposal for the Practical and Reflective Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

December 6, 2011 Comments off

Global Horizons College:

A Proposal for the Practical and Reflective Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

Six months ago, when I started this blog, I wrote about the identity of the Bothell campus. Now, as we get closer to the February date of the Innovation Forum, and as we open up this blog to guest authors, I’d like to take a look at the future. Someone once said—could it have been Professor Yogi Berra?—that predictions are notoriously unreliable, especially with regard to the future. So I won’t try. But acknowledging that we can’t predict the future doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for it. And one of the best ways to prepare for it is to foster innovation and adaptability.

The first step is to take a good look at ourselves. What are the trends and patterns that led to the University of Washington as we know it today, especially as it grew from a regional university in the 1950s to a world-class research university in the 1960s and 1970s? The second step is to look at how universities over the centuries have managed to innovate in response to new challenges. They did so, in part, by starting new colleges, which leads me to propose the founding of a new, global liberal arts college for Washington state as we confront our own new set of challenges at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

In terms of the first step—namely a quick look at the past and present of the University of Washington itself—I think it is fair to say that the University is facing an array of challenges and opportunities whose nature and scale have not been seen since Charles Odegaard became president in 1958. Faced with the task of educating the first tidal wave of the post-war baby boom generation and simultaneously of absorbing massive amounts of federal funding in scientific and medical research unleashed by Sputnik, Odegaard saw immediately (as did Clark Kerr in California) that the success of the University was intimately linked to the success of other educational institutions in the state. By aligning the mission of the UW with the complementary needs of a new, statewide system of community colleges, four-year regional, and research universities, Odegaard shaped the University into its present form. For the last several decades, the system worked well as long as there was a steady increase in tax revenue roughly proportional to the population growth of the state.

Now, however, our overall circumstances are dramatically different on at least three levels: state, national, and global. On the state level, we face a financial crisis even as our pool of potential students grows in number, diversity, and degree of under-preparedness. On the national level, education is increasingly seen not as a public good but a private benefit, tending to limit access to education and undermine our ability to compete in a knowledge-intensive global economy. On the global level, human technology has given rise to a global commons that is a triumph of the human intellect and a major step forward in human progress. But it has also created formidable issues, such as environmental degradation, climate change, human trafficking, and disease, among many others, all of which will require a whole new set of global institutional structures and processes to deal with successfully. The university, as the preeminent steward of the human intellect that created this world of rapid technological change, has a deep responsibility to step up its commitment to understanding and resolving these issues. When all is said and done, the University of Washington is the flagship institution of the Pacific Northwest and one of the greatest universities in the world. As such it is the natural leader of a larger community profoundly in need of intellectual understanding and guidance. We can no longer afford to be an island of excellence in a sea of underachievement.

Which leads me to my second step. The university, as an institution, has survived longer than any other organization in Western civilization. Given the wrenching changes that have swept across Europe in the last thousand years, that is a remarkable achievement. How did it do it? One of the reasons, it seems to me, is that it used the device of the college as an adaptive response to new challenges and opportunities. It turns out that in one respect universities are no different from all other organizations, which confront a fundamental, inescapable necessity to balance the conflicting need for both integration and autonomy—the former necessary for unity, efficiency, continuity, stability, and fairness, and the latter for diversity, change, innovation, individual identity, and participatory engagement.

In the history of the university over time, the former was accomplished by the central administration, the latter by the autonomous administration of colleges within the university. The ultimate model of this balance, perhaps, is the grandfather of all universities in Europe—Oxford—which is a federated community of approximately 40 colleges that are simultaneously autonomous and integrated. This balance of unity and diversity means that colleges within a given university can often, as they have at Oxford in the past, operate as a kind of skunk works for the university as a whole, experimenting with new ways of doing things while retaining all the benefits of a common enterprise.

My own life has been profoundly shaped by these two institutions. Once, a very long time ago, I spent a year studying at the University of Pavia in northern Italy. I lived in the Collegio Borromeo, built in the sixteenth century with a donation from St. Carlo Borromeo, whose remains now repose in the crypt of the Milan cathedral. The Borromeo was a “college” (collegium in Latin) in the sense of being part of a larger university (and it was a magnificent building—a veritable palazzo) but its underlying purpose was to meet a social need for access to higher education by bright students from poor families. To this day it still serves that original purpose.

As luck would have it, I started my teaching career at another college—Whitman College—that is a completely independent institution but still small enough to adapt quickly to environmental changes. In the 1930s, during the depression, Whitman almost went bankrupt. At one point, faculty went months without pay. Local stores gave them food on credit. Then a Walla Walla businessman, Don Sherwood, stepped forward and promised to bail out the College if it would agree to adopt a radical austerity program that included reduced spending and no future borrowing on credit (does this sound familiar?). It worked, and Whitman is now thriving, but it was possible only because the College was small and flexible enough to take charge of its own destiny.

In 1990, I had the great good fortune of participating in the founding of a new campus at Bothell, which, though not a “college,” certainly has replicated the adaptive function of the traditional college within a larger university, and just as certainly has grappled with the tension between integration and autonomy. So when I was contemplating how the university could respond most effectively to the emerging challenges of the future, while taking into account the massive shifts in the landscape of higher education that have occurred in the past two decades, the new technology of learning that has also taken place during that time, as well as the emergence of a whole new level of global interaction, the first word that popped into my mind was “college.” In the last 21 years on the Bothell campus, we’ve learned a lot about how—and how not—to start a new campus. Could we take what we have learned and give birth to a wholly new enterprise that would be both autonomous and integrated at the same time?

How new? Well, I invite you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and join me in imagining a new public, global liberal arts college. It would draw from a pool of faculty members from all the colleges and universities in the state of Washington, and would combine the benefits of both a traditional liberal arts education and experiential learning to prepare students for a meaningful life of social entrepreneurship. The first two or three years would focus on a rigorous liberal arts education comparable to that taught at the best liberal arts colleges in the country (better, actually, since this curriculum would focus on imparting a basic understanding of the major areas of human knowledge, and be based less on what faculty members want to teach and more on what student need to learn). The third or fourth year of study would concentrate on the practical skills needed to create an organization or company—either non-profit or a social business—whose goal would be to address persistent social problems in our state, nation, and world.

The rationale for this structure and curriculum is based on my own observation over many years of a disconnect between the long-term benefit and the short-term drawback of a liberal arts education. On the one hand, a liberal arts education is the best preparation for a productive career requiring imagination, flexibility, and critical thinking skills. But on the other hand, recent graduates with a liberal arts education generally lack practical understanding of how best to leverage their skills and knowledge in useful employment. Why not combine the two, and throw in the overall improvement of humankind for good measure? In this case, education would create jobs, and jobs would create education. We could even contemplate branches of this college in the major cities of the nation and the world, which would facilitate travel, study, and internships abroad as students explore practical manifestations of the problems they are studying in the classroom. The world, in effect, would become the campus.

Faculty would be hired on five-year, potentially renewable, contracts. There would be no tenure.  There would be no academic rank.  Every faculty member would be a “professor.” Most of the successful enterprises resulting from this education would be non-profit, but some might be able to combine profits with social responsibility. Those latter entities would commit to return 5% of their profits to the college, part of which would go to reduce tuition for future students, and part to establish a venture-capital fund to seed future student/graduate enterprises.  The goal would be eventually to have a sustainable operations budget that would provide affordable tuition for all students.  It would align the mission of the institution with the most fundamental need of our times to foster responsible citizenship, enrich lives, prepare leaders, reduce the public subsidy of education, create jobs, and operate in a global world.

It would manifest the simple truth that while studying a problem requires analysis, solving a problem requires synthesis. Research universities are best structured for the analytical specialization of the former; colleges are best structured for the synthetic generalization of the latter. Neither is better than the other. They are both necessary and required for the advancement and application of human knowledge. Such a liberal arts college—or array of potential colleges like it—would represent an adaptive response to a very rapidly changing environment.

Above all, following Odegaard’s example, this new college would be focused on relationships, between knowledge and practice, between faculty and students, between campus and community, between Washington and the world. Several years ago Desmond Tutu gave a speech at the UW Medical School in which he made the following remark: “We cannot be human alone; we can only be human together.”  That observation says it all.  We cannot thrive alone; we can only thrive together.

Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

September 15, 2011 Comments off

When I recently watched Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk on how to foster creativity in education, there were already over 2,700,000 viewers.  I can see why. It’s a powerful presentation on all the ways in which the natural creativity of children is gradually drained away by the way we educate them. The message is delivered with humor, insight, and humanity. His basic ideas were put in visual form, appropriately, by an RSA animate as well, which now itself has more than five million viewers.

There were a number of observations that rang true to me not just on the level of K-12 but the university as well. One was that when children are challenged to do something, they are willing to give it a shot, even if they are wrong. They’re not yet afraid to be wrong, and “if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Because we stigmatize mistakes, we steer children away from creativity. My favorite anecdote from the presentation is the one about the kid in art class who was scribbling away energetically on a piece of white paper. The teacher asked him what he was drawing, and the kid answered: “I’m drawing a picture of God.” “But nobody knows what God looks like,” said the teacher, to which the kid replied: “They will in a minute.”

His larger point in the presentation is that we need vastly to diversify our understandings of human intelligence—of what people learn, how they learn, and how fast they learn—if we are to tap into the enormous creative power of our young people.

If you are interested in how we can do a better job of fostering innovation in our educational systems, and you haven’t seen the videos below, take a look. You won’t regret it.