Human dignity — our belief in our own worth — is tied to action. How we spend our days matters, as does the career we pursue. Indeed, Americans increasingly want jobs tied to who they are as individuals. Given that demand, what should be postsecondary education’s mission, and what should it mean to be a top college or university?
Carnegie Mellon University Chaired Professor of Information Technology and Marketing Michael D. Smith answers those questions in a new book, The Abundant University: Remaking Higher Education for a Digital World. The Charles Koch Foundation has supported Smith’s research.
Postsecondary education’s mission, Smith says, is to create opportunity for as many people as possible. To be considered “prestigious,” colleges and universities should not be judged by the number of people they exclude, but by the multiple ways they help learners “discover and develop their unique talents so they can use those talents to make a difference in the world.”
Smith argues educators can work toward this mission by embracing digital technology. In addition to giving learners an access to a broader array of tools that will help them unlock their unique skills and interests, Smith says technology will expand access to learning opportunities and lead to other changes that will benefit students, employers, and society.
Institutions like Western Governors University, Arizona State University Online, and Southern New Hampshire University, along with platforms like Outlier.org, already provide students with the digital tools to help them prepare for careers that boost their sense of dignity and value in the workplace, Smith points out.
The book is generating positive reviews. “Smith succeeds in portraying the current problems bearing down on higher education and offering a set of bold solutions for a future where he envisions a college education becoming ‘more open, flexible, inclusive, and lower-priced,’” Missouri State University President Emeritus Michael T. Nietzel says in Forbes. “The Abundant University is a provocative book that should be read by higher ed insiders as well as those in the general public who care about expanding the reach and the impact of higher education.”