Walter Isaacson Calls for “Necessary and Radical Change” at LSU Transition Advisory Team Meeting

04/17/2013 08:55 AM

BATON ROUGE – LSU’s Transition Advisory Team held their fifth meeting on Tuesday, April 16, at the LSU AgCenter. During the meeting, the team heard from Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute, and Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development. The meeting was streamed live via the Internet for those who could not attend and meeting archives are available at

Isaacson, a native of New Orleans, former CEO and Chairman of CNN and former managing editor of Time Magazine, who has written biographies on Henry Kissinger, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein, addressed the team on “The Future of Higher Education and Technology.” He said that it’s a time for necessary and radical change for higher education.

Isaacson discussed the redefined classroom consisting of digital curricula and online learning with both textbooks and lectures being in digital form. He said the function of a university professor has changed and is no longer simply focused on being a great researcher and a great lecturer. There are opportunities now for students to watch a lecture on their own and then come together in the classroom for a collaborative discussion and the professor acts as more of a facilitator in that process.

Isaacson said it’s important for universities to focus on their strengths and put more emphasis on collaboration and having students learn how to work together in teams. The on-campus experience is still vitally important and provides the opportunity for interaction with others and to be part of teams.

“You wouldn’t have a true experience if you just sat in your bedroom and did it online,” Isaacson said.

The meeting kicked off with updates from the chairs of each Transition Advisory Team sub-committee, who provided information on the discussions that have taken place in the sub-committee and task force meetings.

“I feel like we’re getting great cooperation,” said Lee Griffin, co-chair of the Finance and Revenue Sub-Committee and president and CEO of the LSU Foundation. “We have nine campuses, and everyone is represented on each task force.”

Sub-committees and task forces are focused on specific areas of priority in the realignment process. During these meetings, testimony is provided by national and local subject matter experts. Reports and findings are discussed and input from the public is heard. Information from the Task Force meetings will become part of a final report to be submitted to LSU’s Transition Advisory Team and ultimately to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

The sub-committees include the Academic Sub-Committee, Finance and Revenue Sub-Committee, Research and Discovery Sub-Committee, Student Experience Sub-Committee, and Technology and Operations Sub-Committee. Task forces are focused on commercialization and technology, streamlining, external affairs, administrative services, revenue generation, and technology.

“We’ve had very active participation from all of the campuses,” said James “Jim” Firnberg, chancellor emeritus of LSU-Alexandria, president emeritus of Our Lady of the Lake College, LSU professor emeritus, and chair of the Research & Discovery Sub-Committee. “I think we have a challenge to increase the number and quality of full professors that we have throughout the university to increase our research output.”

Moret followed with a discussion on the central role of higher education in the economic development of Louisiana. Moret provided a historical look at economic development in Louisiana and the progress that have been made since 2008.

“We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress, but we still have a long way to go,” Moret said.

Moret said that Louisiana Economic Development’s number one goal is to grow an average of 40,000 net new jobs per year and are working to position Louisiana to grow faster than the South and the rest of the country.

Moret said LED’s strategic plan focuses on eight areas, and he focused on two of those in his presentation: improve state’s economic competitiveness and develop robust workforce solutions.  

“We’ve been able to get a number of significant results from those,” he said.

Moret said that the long-term, big picture for economic development in the state involves LSU and other higher education institutions, so LED has identified six key focus areas with great potential for job creation and economic growth. These include digital media and enterprise software, life sciences, clean technology, water management, advanced manufacturing, and next generation oil and gas.

Moret outlined some key roles of higher education can play in the economic development of Louisiana. He discussed intellectual talent development; intellectual talent retention and attraction; workforce development; scientific, technical and medical R&D; teacher training/development; research on issues of state importance; business development assistance; and brand building of the state.

“As you think about how LSU and the various LSU units contribute to economic development, this is the bulk of the ways you can contribute to our growth,” he said.
Moret provided examples of projects where higher education played a critical role for Louisiana. These included Centurylink, Electronic Arts, GE Capital, Benteler Steel/Tube, Sasol Ltd., Conagra Foods Lamb Weston Inc., and IBM.

Regarding these businesses choosing to locate in Louisiana, Moret said, “I do not believe would have happened if not for a key higher education piece associate with them.”
Moret told the group that they have big challenge ahead of them, but there are big opportunities as well.

“The ultimate frontier for economic development in Louisiana will be realized through the development of higher education,” he said.

F. King Alexander, the new president of LSU who will assume that role on July 1 of this year, addressed the group and provided his thoughts on the work that has been done with the reorganization.

“It was very refreshing to sit in on this morning meeting because what you guys are working through are exactly the same issues we’re working through in California,” Alexander said. “You’re working on the single biggest intergenerational asset that Louisiana has, and that’s LSU.”

Alexander said the important competition of American higher education is keeping talented people in state and recruiting the best talent from out of state.

“Everybody’s looking to see how LSU’s going to come out of this and contribute to the state,” he said.

Alexander touched on tuition tax credits, retaining and recruiting the best faculty, graduation rates, and the goal of being invited into the AAU.  

With tenure being such a hot topic across the country, Alexander talked about the importance of tenure to universities.

“Tenure is something that is absolutely essential when done right … to challenge society to be a better place,” he said.

Alexander said that LSU can lead the way in showing what a new Land Grant University can and should be in the next century.

“You have so much to be proud of here,” Alexander said.

The afternoon session included a discussion on the mission and tenets of LSU2015, led by Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants.

The team discussed the update that will be given to the LSU Board of Supervisors at their April 17 meeting and wanted to make sure the LSU campuses were aware of the discussions that have taken place in each meeting.

“This [process] is not a threat; it’s going to be a major improvement,” Griffin said.

The group has been working through ways of changing the business process, reviewing assets and moving decisions downward in the organization.
“We’re not changing the campus decision making, we’re making it easier,” Firnberg said.

Slaughter said it is essential to find money for faculty raises and find money to recruit the top researchers.

“We have an obligation here,” she said. “I do think that we can help people think a little bit harder about that … those things need to be front and center.”
LSU Interim System President and Interim Chancellor William Jenkins added, “We’ve got to solve it.”

Bill Silvia, president and CEO of the Pennington Medical Foundation and co-chair of the Operations & Technology Sub-Committee, said that faculty pay is a top priority but that the group shouldn’t forget about the staff members who also haven’t received raises over the last four years.

The Transition Advisory Team will also meet on Friday, April 19, in a special session with representatives of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Vieux Carre’ Room of the LSU Student Union.

The Transition Advisory team, a 10-member panel tasked with providing information to the LSU Board of Supervisors to facilitate the reshaping of the LSU System, is meeting for the fifth time.  The team held its first meeting on Jan. 8, an Immersion Workshop on Feb. 7, its third meeting on Feb. 19 and met with Ohio State University President Gordon Gee by Skype on March 6.

Agendas for this and all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at The names of Transition Advisory Team Sub-Committee members, along with Task Force Group members, are available at

More information on LSU’s reorganization process can be found at Information on the site includes meeting schedules, minutes and video and presentations from past meetings. Also, visit LSU’s reorganization Facebook page at

Ernie  Ballard 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Wednesday, April 17, 2013