What will learning communities look like in the future? Will universities transform themselves in light of the advancements in AI or robotics? What will students want to learn and how should their expectations be tailored to this new world of work? I met with a long-time friend, Dr. David Finegold, President of Chatham University, to listen to his perspective on these changes.
Some of you may know David from his time at USC or the Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont before he navigated to the east coast with Rutgers and then onto some fascinating entrepreneurial ventures in the academic world. He has over 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, from which he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992. He has dedicated his career to education reform, the design of high-performance organizations, and extensive comparative research on education and skill-creation systems from around the world. David’s story of his move to Chatham to focus on leadership is a fascinating one.
Sherry Benjamins: Congratulations on your role as President, Chatham University! Tell us about your path to this leadership role.
David Finegold: I have always been involved in advising students and have been open to where my career might lead. I took assignments that I was passionate about and now it seems everything I have done prior to this has prepared me for the leadership work at Chatham. I have a blend of working for large, complex Universities, like USC and Rutgers with thousands of students along with being at small, innovative campus environments such as Claremont. There were also entrepreneurial challenges at American Honors when I worked to grow an academic business. What makes Chatham unique is that it blends the big and the small: I can make a personal impact given our relatively small size – 2,200 students – where I can get to know each faculty member and student. Yet we have a far more exciting work and complexity than most institutions our size: with three campuses, online innovation as well as focused and recognized success in our wellness and sustainability programs. Chatham offers over 40 undergraduate majors and over 20 graduate programs in sustainability, the health & lab sciences, business & communication, and the arts & humanities.
SB: When you imagine the future of education, where do you see value and affordability?
DF: There is no doubt that access and affordability is critical, especially as we see the costs of a degree going up. As a private college we are addressing the challenges in several ways. First, we are doing more with scholarships and fellowships. Secondly, we are innovating creative ways to serve our students by looking at on and off campus options, such as online, cooperative arrangements with business and study abroad in order to expand our capacity. We have more part-time students, and are also very transfer-friendly, seeing the 2+2 path as a great way for students to lower the overall cost of getting a degree. Roughly 25% of our undergraduates transfer from a mix of community colleges and four-year universities.
As we look to the future, there is a significant population of those over 50 who remain engaged and want to continue working, though perhaps in an entirely new career. They are looking to have social impact and continuing to learn throughout their lives; we are in the early stage of exploring how we might best meet their needs. Also, there is more with dual enrollment as we collaborate with high schools in order to help their students get a leg up on studies and their career goals at the university level.
SB: Chatham is known as an innovator in areas such as, women in leadership, entrepreneurs launching new business, cooperatives and sustainability – what are your students asking for?
DF: Students are attracted to our campuses for these innovative programs. Our Center for Women Entrepreneurship’s Women’s Business Center, ranked #1 in the country, offers experienced business owners the opportunity to engage with and enhance the work of women entrepreneurs. We support internships and diverse work experiences which brings high quality business connections to the “eco-system of talent” in our region. Students want good careers so that they can join or build companies that are socially responsible. They want a quality of life that supports their values and we have multiple ways to offer this through 60 undergraduate and graduate programs and innovative ways to deliver content and experience.
SB: How is technology influencing your longer term plans?
DF: Technology allows us to deliver strong online degree programs. Chatham’s College for Continuing Education offers one of the largest and most successful Doctor of Nursing Practice programs in the US, serving working professionals across the country who wish to advance further in leadership roles. Students can also complete a range of other degrees with flexible and low-residency formats. We also have business, psychology and nursing undergraduate online degrees, masters of creative and professional writing with a focused online production skill building capability and a doctorate of occupational therapy.
We recognize the next wave of disruptive employment is at the intersection of AI, distributed learning and the internet. One study suggests we are potentially going to see 2/3 of the US employment automated by 2030. As one example, our University is already adapting to this new world by introducing a new interdisciplinary degree in “immersive media” or virtual reality.
SB: What is your advice to the new generation of talent?
DF: My advice to our students and the new generation of talent is that liberal arts continues to be very important. Students want to go where they will learn the most and grow personally. I do see a stressed generation across the system and at all abilities. They are feeling anxiety, financial pressures and uncertainty. They do have a social consciousness and want to make things better. They are open to creative entrepreneurial options and have the platform to create global companies with the technology available. They are not looking exclusively to larger corporations as a career choice. It is ironic that the best education is returning to liberal arts for improving problem solving skills, using critical thinking, working in diverse teams, and learning to learn. These are high on the list of new literacies that matter.
Learn more about Chatham on their website!