Michael Crow calls for a New Model of the American Research University

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In a symposium at UC Riverside on May 9, the president of Arizona State University said more universities need to look at inclusion – not exclusion.

By Kris Lovekin on May 12, 2014

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From left, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox discusses the future of UCR with Michael Crow of Arizona State University; UCR Professor of Chemistry Cynthia Larive and UCR Professor of Political Science Karthick Ramakrishnan.  Bettye Miller

From left, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox discusses the future of UCR with Michael Crow of Arizona State University; UCR Professor of Chemistry Cynthia Larive and UCR Professor of Political Science Karthick Ramakrishnan.

Bettye Miller

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – Disruption does not have a negative meaning to Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, and the first of three speakers in UC Riverside’s symposia series about the Future of Higher Education.

In a May 9 talk before faculty, staff and students in the University Theatre, Crow called for the creation of “a new class of the American research university – I call it the super-public.”

He said university prestige and status should not be based on how many people they exclude, but on the needs of the society.  He calls for “egalitarian access matched with excellence. Not exclusion, but inclusion.”

In his introduction of Crow, UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox, said Crow is shaking things up at his large public campus of 72,000 students. “He has done it in a way that has an aspirational tone to it. He is very much interested in sustainability, very much interested in excellence and inclusion,” Wilcox said.

Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, UCR Professor of Political Science Karthick Ramakrishnan; UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and UCR Professor of Chemistry, Cynthia Larive. Bettye Miller

Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, UCR Professor of Political Science Karthick Ramakrishnan; UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox and UCR Professor of Chemistry, Cynthia Larive.
Bettye Miller

Crow said that Arizona State University has a similar spirit with UC Riverside, especially when it comes to matching access with excellence.

“UC Riverside is an unbelievable role model of what the future of higher education needs to achieve,” Crow said, noting especially UC Riverside’s ability to graduate students equally across ethnicities.

“It is humbling for the rest of us,” Crow said.

He said more universities must find ways to follow that example, or the country will continue to see a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and states would face troubling social and economic consequences if they continue to admit only a small select group of students to the university.      Crow, Arizona State University’s 16th president, pointed to some of the changes that his university has made in the last dozen years:  increasing research funding to $420 million, embracing the disruption of tradition with folding some departments into interdisciplinary working groups, and growing a student body of 72,000 students.

He credited his faculty with rising to new ways of thinking, and he is proud of the academic achievement of his student body, comparing totals of Fulbright, Marshall and Truman fellowships to those of any other university in the world.

He said looking to replicate models of highly selective universities such as Harvard, Princeton or even UC Berkeley is not sustainable for the nation. He urged that  public research universities like UC Riverside define success on their own terms, measure outcomes, and keep building.

“We are at an evolutionary moment,” he said. Some organizations will begin to find ways to scale this kind of public service education to a new model of excellence and accessibility that operates in real time, not academic time, he said. “You are already on this path and moving in this direction.”

After the talk, Chancellor Wilcox moderated a discussion between Crow and two members of the UC Riverside faculty.

Cynthia Larive, a UCR professor of chemistry, noted that the Chancellor’s plan to ramp up faculty hiring to 300 new tenure track faculty members in five years would be the opportunity for campus innovation.

“This is a university where we do a good job of training our students,” she said. “Keeping that level of engagement has to continue, as well as the level of rigor, as the university grows.”

Karthick Ramakrishnan, a professor of political science, said UCR’s new School of Public Policy offers a perfect chance to be directly impactful to the area. Faculty expertise on global poverty issues can be applied to help analyze and improve the economic models of the Inland region. “I think of the Public Policy Institute as a lab,” he said. “Things that have been learned globally can be applied here.”

Chancellor Wilcox pointed out that the time it takes a student to graduate from college is impacted by how much they have to work while they are going to school. He asked the faculty to think of new approaches that will help students graduate on time.

The talk created a buzz afterward at a reception on an outdoor patio. Doug Mitchell, the dean of the Graduate School of Education, said he was intrigued by many of the points made. But he cautioned the campus not to focus only on new hires in science and technology, but to value expertise in politics, in education, in psychology, and in many other fields.

“STEM has been so much the watchword,” he said. But remember that a lack of political sophistication is just as dangerous as lack of scientific achievement.”

He said he was enthusiastic about UCR’s ability to be a living laboratory for the region, in health, in education, in the economy, and in technology and STEM education.

Two more symposia are scheduled as part of Kim Wilcox’s investiture as UC Riverside’s Chancellor. They will help UC Riverside leadership explore with the faculty the right way for UCR to grow and develop over the next five years.The next speaker is University of Washington Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeffrey Riedinger, set for 4 p.m., Friday, May 16, at the Genomics Auditorium. His topic is “Globalization and The University.” The response and discussion will be offered by two faculty members from the College of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, Professor of Economics Marcelle Chauvet; and Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Studies David Herzberger.

The third speaker is Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, an influential agency in the higher education world. He will speak at 4 p.m. May 30, in the Genomics Auditorium. His topic is “The Public University of the 21st Century.” UCR faculty members leading the response are Jodie Holt, professor of botany in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Sharon Walker, Bourns College of Engineering.

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