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Dean's Blog

The Year Ahead

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The Year Ahead, Dean's Blog

The new year is well underway as we enter the latter half of January and with it we bring hopes and resolve to make 2016 productive and prosperous. World events provide the context of major issues prevalent at the end of the last year that will continue to shape and propel how 2016 will contribute to history. Central to our lives and work will be the impact that global issues such as energy, financial markets, international security, and political turmoil will exert in the coming year and beyond, perhaps as formative transformation for this century. Communication, technology and diminished transportation barriers have made the U.S. more intimately and quickly linked to world events, the impact of which is experienced daily in our lives and work.  We are increasingly global citizens as individuals, organizations and a nation.

The complexity of the challenges we face is often obfuscated by simplistic understanding and at times a desire to solve or address them quickly, which is assuredly at odds with the depth of most challenges. It is also clear, at least to me, that the pace at which information travels adds pressure to how thoughtfully responses are crafted to natural and man-made crises. While the speed of response is important, an underlying and foundational characteristic is the ability to adapt to change. Those individuals, organizations and governments that are able to appropriately adapt to frequent change and learn from the process will be more able to see opportunities and mitigate adverse impacts. I have no doubt that 2016 will be a fluid year and that change management will be a paramount skill that I hope all of our students and graduates develop as a result of your education.

There are numerous factors that contribute to adaptable and resilient individuals and organizations, and some of you may be studying them in your courses right now, keep learning!  What should be clear is that education is a fundamental building block for adapting to change in the sense that a good education provides both substantive knowledge and methodologies for learning. Any technical and substantive knowledge we acquire at a point in time will inevitably become dated (in substance and application) relative to the speed of change and advancement.   Adaptability and resilience depends upon the ability to observe, analyze and integrate under changing conditions; the greater the speed of change the more important the ability to adapt as individuals and organizations. 

What disheartens me most about the current debate relative to the return on investment of higher education is a seeming focus on the here and now. Specifically, much of the dialog revolves around the acquisition of technical skills by traditional age students. Although important, the larger purposes of education that extend beyond technical skill seem secondary to what could be interpreted as job training. The jobs graduates will have twenty or thirty years from now are likely not to exist and most will have a dozen or more jobs over their career, underscoring the need to be constantly learning and adapting to change. This is a separate topic for another day, but suffice it to say that if we think education is not important it doesn’t take much of a look through history or around the world to see what happens without it!

I’ll be writing and thinking more about this in coming weeks so stay tuned to explore how CGCS and Norwich University will move forward in 2016 to better serve our students and alumni.

Maple Syrup, Free to a Good Home

Last month I kicked off the annual Clements Household hockey puck contest, now in its 21st year. For those who missed the details, I have included a few this week since the contest is now officially open. Act now to preserve your chance at winning a pint of real Vermont maple syrup and official Norwich University hockey puck. Simply send me an e-mail at bclements@norwich.edu or reply to this blog with the date that you think the puck will “clear the bank” between March 15 and May 15. “Clearing the bank” means the day that I can pick the puck up from the snow and ice at 8 AM. All entries must be received by Friday, February 19, 2016 to be officially entered lest an unfair advantage be gained by waiting to better estimate the severity of the winter of 2015-16, which to date has been rather tame compared to the last few years. I’d like to believe that spring is just around the corner but the calendar indicates otherwise and I’ve learned that a mild first half of winter does not guarantee an easy second half!

I think I’ll have some real maple syrup on a stack of pancakes and retire to the woodstove… with my computer and some work to do, of course. I trust you will do the same or your version of a winter retreat!