Today’s education landscape is becoming hyper-competitive with formidable for profit institutions with significant financial muscle. In addition, we have seen private and public institutions moving beyond their traditional geographic boundaries and embracing the opportunities in the adult education market. The higher education landscape, one in which Webster has owned and played a leading role for many years is shrinking. This begs the question:
I believe that Webster must stay on the forefront of innovation by demonstrating the audacity and courage to see things differently. It will happen by offering creative programs that meet the ever changing demand of the workplace. The recent introduction of such new programs in leadership and management, entrepreneurship, decision support, information technology management, non-profit management and web design is a validation of our seriousness of purpose. In addition, the new MBA Cohort of 50 allied health personnel at BJC the largest hospital in the system in the United States confirms our willingness to dare to be creative.
Whether or not we can retain our institutional relevance will depend in part on the commitment from all of us to lead from where we are. This will require the collective efforts of the permanent citizens of Webster – the faculty, staff and the administration. I believe that our institution’s mission rest in our ability to define with clarity our purpose. The future must take on a commitment to serve the underserved working adults, minorities, women, people in mid populated areas and emerging international markets. Webster University can become a bridge for people the world over.
Recently, we have seen an intensity of competitive pressure from new players in the higher education marketplace, driven by the explosive growth of distance learning technology, and by the dwindling population demographics of the 23-29 year olds in Europe and the growing number of online degrees delivered by brand name institutions.
Webster’s future rests on our willingness to invest on our strengths:
Webster must take advantage of the many opportunities that the present and future will bring our way. These include:
Our response must be immediate and specific to:
We will offer our students the option to pursue dual degrees such as the MBA and the Masters in Health Administration (MHA) in a shortened, 54 credit hours format. We cannot afford to remain flat footed but must embrace innovation because our survival as an institution will depend on it.
I end with a short story I heard told in my days in West Texas in the 1990’s. It’s a story told of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song, Bridge Over Troubled Water. The song tells a story of a drawbridge operator who lived near the bridge for which he was responsible. It was his responsibility to enable boats to pass beneath by raising the bridge and to allow trains to pass on top by lowering the bridge. One day he received the familiar signal that a train was approaching. Seeing the silver flash in the distance, he reached over to pull the switch that would lower the bridge. And then almost by instinct, he looked down in horror to see his son, who had been playing under the bridge, caught in the rigging. With no time to release his son and then get back to lower the bridge, he is trapped into making a choice that none of us would ever hope to make: either lower the bridge and save the lives of hundreds of people on the train and lose his only child, or save the life of his child and let the train and the hundred of passengers crash. I don’t know what action was immediately taken. But the questions I would like answered are; Why did this happen in the first place? Was the drawbridge operator become too complacent? Did the drawbridge operator become distracted? Was he too comfortable with the day to day activities and underestimated the significance of his role. What do we do when faced with dual challenges that demand immediate attention? How can we multi-task effectively to achieve desired results? How can we ensure that new competition and tightening market does not dissipate our market share? What must we do to ensure that we don’t get distracted and over-confident that we can continue to do the same things yet hope for better results? We must work hard to ensure that we will never be in a position whereby our choices are desperate and present a no-win situation.
I heard the leadership sage Professor Warren Bennis speak a few days ago at the 2006 AACSB Dean’s Meeting. He said the fundamental marker of success is result. We must develop the ability to respond in real time to the challenges and opportunities that will come our way. Our focus must not be on activities but on results.
The song, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and the story behind it speak to the difficult decisions that Webster faces today and in the immediate future. It’s about the choice of doing what is right and doing the right thing. The reality of making difficult choices speaks to saving Webster and to extending its life way into the future. The choices we face as an institution are limited yet clear as the light of day. In the words of Aristotle, we must make reality our best friend, because this is where the opportunities lie. The reality calls for bold, sensible risks and visionary actions.
Webster University has the opportunity to represent a stabilizing force in business education in the 21st century – we can be the bridge for the vast underserved population worldwide, preparing students to successfully withstand the strong currents of the present and the future. Our bridge can be human bridge made up of the hard work of many, the permanent citizens of Webster. It’s a bridge that is held up by history and tradition and sustained by the commitment of our faculty, a bridge held by the hopes and dreams of our students. It’s a bridge that must be strong enough to withstand the test of time.
I believe that the future belongs to those that can see it and as such, it is our responsibility to focus our collective will to build a stronger Webster. In the words of Laurence Jorreman, Community Relations Coordinator at the Webster Denver campus, Webster must react now so that the “university is not soon ringing the sound of silence.”
My hope is that we shall continue to live by the reality of the lyrics espoused in the song like a bridge over troubled water so, “Sail on silver girl, sail on. Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way, see how they shine.” We must work to keep the Webster bridge strong and steady, even as the powerful winds of competition and the unpredictability of the times we live may shake our will and test our resolve to sail on. May the winds of change bring favor to Webster. May our collective efforts keep this ship on course.Benjamin Ola. Akande, Dean
"Webster must stay on the forefront of innovation by demonstrating the audacity and courage to see things differently. "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
Powered by Google.