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Volume 3, Issue 1

Leaders Have a Lot to "Unlearn"

Community college leaders need to adapt to the changing advancement and educational landscape for their institutions to thrive, says a keynote speaker at the upcoming CASE Conference for Community College Advancement.

Jack Uldrich is a futurist—someone who attempts to predict and understand how technological advances will shape the future. He says that leaders in the nonprofit and business sectors need to "unlearn" certain beliefs they have about their work to stay ahead.

"My whole message is that change is coming faster than most people appreciate," says Uldrich, who has written numerous books on the subject, including The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Business. "To embrace and thrive on change, we have to let go our assumptions about our jobs, our customers, everything."

For example, Uldrich says that education is facing a number of significant challenges with the introduction of massive open online courses, such as those offered by Coursera and Khan Academy, in which thousands of students are educated in a way that adapts to their learning style. He says that these advances are making obsolete the old paradigm of one professor delivering the same lecture to a roomful of students.

Uldrich believes the growing expectation of personalization in education will soon apply to the alumni experience.

"Not every alumnus wants to hear the same thing," he says. "Not every alumnus might respond to a written piece, for example. It's incumbent upon the institution to find out what [he or she is] receptive to and tailor its messaging accordingly."

Uldrich says that, although many advancement professionals may understand the gravity of such changes, some college presidents and other institutional leaders may not. He encourages advancement professionals in this situation to "humble" their leaders a bit.

"To convince others around us of change, we need to give them an A-HA moment," he says. "A-HA is an acronym for awareness, humility and action. Most people are convinced they see the world clearly... Go back to college presidents or senior leaders who are resistant to change and make them aware of how the world is changing."

For example, Uldrich suggests holding a "pre-mortem" talk with leadership when the college is making a significant change in order address possible issues that might lead to negative consequences. This exercise, he notes, can lead to better decision-making.

"There are those who are frightened by the future and those who are excited by the future," he says. "The latter are motivated by the opportunity it provides. For those who are resistant to change, sometimes scaring them is the best thing you can do."

Please share your questions and comments with Marc Westenburg via email at or +1 202 478 5570.

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This article is from the July 2013 issue of the Community College Advancement News.