Posted on February 16, 2017 by Rick Koubek, Executive Vice President and Provost; Professor of Industrial Engineering
At two recent meetings on higher education in Louisiana, the phrase “our new reality” was used to describe our state. It was as you might expect - declining number of high school graduates, reduced state funding, wavering public support, etc. Drawing inspiration from the conferences, I did a Google search on the phrase “new realities in higher education” which returned an essay titled “Doing More with Less: The ‘New Realities’ of Higher Education Finance” written by our very own CFO, Daniel T. Layzell….in 1991.
For those of us who have devoted our careers to higher education, it is difficult to recall a time when people were not talking about a “new reality,” leading one to wonder whether there really is anything new about our new reality.
If this is the new reality, is there an “old reality” in higher education? The answer is yes.
Be it further enacted Etc; that the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, as heresinbefore enacted shall have for its object to become an institution of learning in its broadest and highest cense, where literature, science and all the arts may be taught, where the principals of truth and honor may be established and a noble sense of personal and patriotic and religious duty inculcated, in fine to fit the citizen to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices both private and public of peace and war.”
This has been LSU’s constant reality for 140 years - educating the next leaders of our state and world, performing fundamental research that ultimately impacts quality of life and serving our community. The rest (budget, enrollment, public opinion, etc.) is the context, important and at times unpleasant, but context nonetheless.
We are nearing the final completion of LSU’s new strategic plan. When finished, it will have been a 19-month campus-wide, community-wide effort including input from literally thousands. It will provide a contemporary context for the execution of our original mission.
And if we focus and succeed, the LSU community just may have the power to shape our next “new reality” rather than being shaped by it.