March 2, 2012

I hope you all had the opportunity to listen this past Tuesday to Josh Linkner, the author of our fall Omniquest selection, Disciplined Dreaming.  If you couldn’t join the presentation live, it’s available for viewing by clicking here.

Mr. Linkner’s presentation on creativity and innovation started me thinking about how much higher education needs to change in the coming years and decades, and how important our Strategic Plan is to facilitate change.

If you stop to think about it, higher education hasn’t changed dramatically in the past 500 years. Higher education is often delivered with a faculty member gathering groups of students and providing knowledge in facilities built around time-tested technologies such as textbooks and presentation boards. The model has worked well for generations in many ways but has limits in this rapidly moving technology-infused world. This may very well mean the “traditional” model of higher education will no longer work, and some of us will have to creatively develop new models to meet the needs of our future students and their employers in the 21st century. 

In the current model, prestige and university media rankings are often based on the selectivity of the institution and the amount of time, money and energy required to educate each individual.  Rankings often highlight the institutions that are most selective, and those with the largest endowments and the highest tuition rates, when in reality accessibility and efficiency should be equally rewarded in this marketplace. 

It is certainly true we at Northwood University are being more selective in admissions than ever before, but not for reasons of institutional rankings or vanity. Our focus on stronger quality in our incoming students is to ensure we meet our mission and, as an independent, not-for-profit higher education institution, differentiate ourselves from other schools by offering our customers better value. Exhibiting a strong history of retention and four-year graduation metrics certainly provide that value and differentiation. They will be critical components of our value equation going forward, and are certainly recognized in the “Required Needs” section (below) which we collaboratively developed in our Northwood University Strategic Planning Process (NUSPP) this past year.

Northwood University Strategic Planning Process 

As a global business university, we will need many different pedagogical options that can deliver knowledge in many different ways with continued high quality and greater flexibility. I sincerely doubt this will happen by simply replicating the current higher education model.

Thankfully, Josh Linkner, in the exercises we all found in his book, has helped us develop our “creativity chops” and look at more innovative ways to deliver a Northwood education. We’re moving through Linkner’s five steps of “Disciplined Dreaming” on large projects such as our seamless enrollment-flexible delivery initiative, and many other smaller but equally important creative opportunities. These are great beginnings for us at Northwood, and clearly are additional opportunities for us to “stand out” in a positive way in the higher education marketplace of the future.

On a completely different topic, congratulations are in order for our two men’s Basketball Teams. In Florida, our Seahawks won their first-ever Sun Conference playoff championship, beating Warner University 77-68 on Saturday February 25. They also had the best record in the Conference for the regular season, something they have accomplished each of the six years we have fielded a team. They begin the NAIA national tournament next week in Branson, Missouri, ranked number one in the country with a record of 30-3 overall and 14-2 in the Conference. Good luck, Seahawks!

The Timberwolves in Michigan tied for the North Division title with two other schools in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), our first division title since 1999. They set a new record for consecutive wins (8) in a season, finishing the year with a record 18-9. They also tied the school record for NCAA Division II wins in one season with 16. Congratulations to Coach Jeff Rekeweg and his team!

Have a great weekend!


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640
989.837.4203 (phone)
989.832.9590 (fax)