Making Our CASE in a Changing World
By Larry D. Lauer
Governments are changing how they support education. Technology is changing how students learn and institutions communicate. And the globalization of everything is putting economic forces into play that will force institutional leaders to plan for new marketplace realities. Ready or not, the entire education industry is finding itself in the midst of a major sea change.
Some institutions have been making technology-driven changes, dealing with government disappointments, and responding to international trends for a long time. Although others are recognizing the need to adapt, many institutions remain locked in a local or regional mindset. As a consequence, they risk missing new opportunities to strengthen their organization and advance their educational mission.
Every academic institution and organization will likely be changed one way or another by globalization. Fundraising, branding, marketing and communication will change. Alumni and government relations will change. Student and faculty migration and behavior patterns will change. Curricula across the board will change. Programs will adapt. And as is always the case with change, institutions and individuals will experience both the pain and joy of new opportunities.
“Ready or not, the entire education industry is finding itself in the midst of a major sea change.”
The reality for those whose professions advance education is that a high degree of sophistication and understanding of industry issues and societal trends will be required to meet these challenges. But there is also some really good news. Those who prepare themselves well for change inevitably will find new opportunities for leadership in this rapidly evolving multi-dimensional world.
When you really think about it, the advancement and support of education will depend even more on our ability to respond to competitive challenges and operate in a global context: Finding new money; using alumni and students to open operations in new places; adapting branding and marketing initiatives to global marketplace realities; and building relationships with unfamiliar foreign governments and organizations. All of this will require a very high degree of professional sophistication and understanding of the many difficult issues. Those who fully understand the issues, embrace the change and rethink their methodologies will find incredible new opportunities coming their way.
Changing Government Roles
Some governments are going through overall austerity cutbacks. Others are focused mostly on making a few of their institutions “world class.” Some seem more interested in research prominence than in teaching while others are more interested in creating and filling jobs.
Government intervention and intrusion is both ongoing and unpredictable, with the education industry under increased scrutiny and, in some cases, under political assault. Complaints about cost, student debt, spending on frills, and concerns about learning outcomes are motivating legislators and politicians to promise voters that they will fix things. Fundraising practices, charitable giving laws and endowment spending also are increasingly under the governmental microscope. Amid a seemingly hopeless atmosphere of extreme polarization, any fixes will require savvy collaboration and compromise. In the end, experienced professionals in government affairs who are innovative enough to successfully navigate these turbulent waters will find amazing new opportunities in this new and emerging global industry.
Globalization of Everything
Anyone with a laptop and the knowledge to use it can build relationships and compete from anywhere in the world. Even the smallest businesses utilizing digital technology can find customers in other parts of the world. As a result, the economy is becoming global, more people are traveling internationally and, for all practical purposes, the world is shrinking.
On the one hand, cross-cultural engagements are all good. But on the other, they will change the competitive environment. The digital technology revolution has already changed how institutions communicate. Social media have added new platforms. Websites have become portals that enable every constituent from student prospects to older alumni to find new and continuing educational opportunities, athletic and cultural events, conferences and lectures, and communities of interest of all types.
“... the advancement and support of education will depend even more on our ability to respond to competitive challenges and operate in a global context ...”
In addition, online degree and certificate programs are opening up new convenience-motivated markets. Constant technology improvements and creative uses of occasional on-site meetings and conversations are making online education a permanent and competitive alternative to campus-based learning.
Technology and the students brought up on it are also changing the campus-based learning experience. Students would rather search the internet for information and answers than read long, dry textbooks and journal articles. Skype and other software programs enable experts from anywhere in the world to dialogue with students and professors. Lecture classes are passé. Students instead want professors who present their ideas creatively—and briefly, a la the popular TED Talks. (Those professors who don’t adapt risk skewering online through “rate my professor” websites.) And, of course, there are volumes of video and other media resources to further enrich the total experience.
Marketing and communication professionals will need to adjust brand identities, websites, program descriptions and social media platforms for a global audience; help constituents adapt to the coming changes and embrace digital media; and then seize opportunities to help lead the way.
Becoming a Global Industry
Globalization usually begins with study abroad, progresses toward institutional partnerships, and then sometimes grows into establishing offices or even campuses in other countries. Early planning often involves exploring these and other opportunities in areas with larger numbers of foreign alumni and/or parents of foreign students.
Some institutions are already locating offices in other countries to raise money from their alumni, recruit new students and find corporate and foundation partners with global interests. This emerging global education industry will eventually feature many truly international institutions that have organized to communicate their location advantages, language opportunities, cultural attractions, cost competitiveness and job opportunities.
The most exciting potential of a full-blown global higher education industry is to produce truly international leaders in cross-cultural settings and to focus research and consulting expertise on solving the world’s most critical problems. Just think about the power of institutions working together to address issues, including energy, global warming, conservation, poverty, hunger, water, public health—even rebuilding institutions in war-torn areas. We have an opportunity to bring new meaning to the phrase, “Knowledge is power.”
Seizing the Opportunities
Determining your professional place in this new global industry will require a firm grasp of the issues and a sophisticated application of expertise. But make no mistake; when planning and working together, fundraising, marketing and communications, alumni relations and government affairs professionals are better suited than any others in the academy to help prepare constituents, find the necessary resources, use digital platforms both inside and out, adapt strategic communication and marketing to compete internationally, deal with new government realities, and help lead the way.
This strategic plan, with its revitalized mission to “inspire, challenge and equip communities of professionals to act effectively and with integrity to champion the success of their institutions” in order to “advance education to transform lives and society,” positions CASE and its professionals perfectly to seize new and exciting opportunities to lead.
Larry D. Lauer is one of CASE's most active and honored volunteers. Among his many leadership roles, he served for seven years on the CASE Board of Trustees. In 2012 he received the Frank L. Ashmore Award for service to CASE and the advancement profession for a lifetime of professional service and his pioneering of the integrated approach to marketing the academy. In 2012 he also received the CASE Crystal Apple Award for excellence in teaching. Lauer also is the only two-time recipient of CASE's Alice L. Beeman Award for research in communications and marketing (2003 and 2007).