CI 2.0: The Next DecadeBy Lori Putnam
“To create a university isn’t a burden; it is the opportunity of a lifetime and that opportunity still remains. We are nowhere close to being finished,” stated Rush. “The CI of the future is only, if you will, in its adolescence, displaying energy, dynamism, incredible talent, and that stereotypical adolescent appetite for more.”
Indeed, creating the next decade is a theme that Rush has set for the new school year. Despite ongoing uncertainty in state funding, he is committed to continuing CI’s trajectory of growth through innovation and creativity. Not unlike the early days of the University when faculty and staff had, in the president’s words, only ideas and old buildings to work with, CI is poised for another transformation.
Turning the Page
The world has changed significantly since the University first opened its doors in 2002. Whether it’s new opportunities driven by technical innovation or the challenges of a struggling economy, CI must be prepared to address the forces shaping both the local and global landscape. According to Rush, this will require University faculty and staff to remain innovative and, at times, question the status quo.
“I would like us in the next decade to continue to be a campus of innovation, not simply following the traditional ways of doing things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done,” said Rush. “It is our privilege to create new ways of delivering a meaningful education. We are a campus not afraid to take risks for the benefit of our students’ success and to take part in an international conversation on the meaning of higher education.”
Breaking new ground is not new to CI. Rush points to early University decisions such as placing students at the center of the learning experience and committing to an interdisciplinary approach, long before it became popular in higher education, as examples of the CI pioneering spirit. Today he sees additional opportunities where CI can forge its own unique path, and perhaps serve as a model for other institutions.
One way is CI’s outreach to business leaders to gauge the demand for workforce talent. Building on the successful partnership with healthcare organizations that produced CI’s popular nursing program, Rush sees engineering as the next great area of need. According to the National Science Foundation, the unemployment rate for engineers in spring 2013 was 2 percent compared to the national average of 7.6 percent. Specifically, Rush points to the emerging discipline of security engineering as an area that addresses both a local and international need. Leveraging its close proximity to the entertainment and communication capital of the world, Rush envisions an expanded entertainment studies program as well as the possible addition of fashion design to the University’s growing curriculum in the next decade.
And as is the CI Way, these and other programs will be built with faculty through collaboration across disciplines and fields. “We are looking to see how, from an interdisciplinary approach, we can bring a number of perspectives together to enrich a new way of thinking.”
A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
No longer the small cadre of faculty and staff that first banded together to convert former state hospital rooms into classrooms, CI inevitably faces the challenge of maintaining its unique culture as it grows in size. The CI Way must be inculcated in each and every faculty and staff member to ensure it thrives. Otherwise, said Rush, it’s a bit like the old joke about the band leader leading his colleagues down the street, turns left, and the rest of the band keeps marching forward without him.
“We’re here for the students’ success, that’s the beginning and end of why we’re here,” said Rush. “The opportunities are endless. By the end of the next decade, CI will be different, either through the application of our hands, preferably, or those of others, but it will be different. What CI will look like will emerge from the decisions that we make.”
Part band leader, part visionary, Rush continues to invite his colleagues to build the university they always knew could exist—a place where they would be proud to work and leave their mark, both on CI and in the graduates who leave the University to make an impact on the world.