Are You a Student of Higher Education?

5 attributes.

May 22, 2016

Are you a student of higher education?

The first colleague that I heard refer to themselves as a student of higher education was Dave Cormier. Not as an expert in higher education. (Which he is). But as a student of higher education.

This is what I am. This is who I want to be.

What defines a student of higher education?

Not sure, but here are a few ideas:

1 - You Are Insatiably Curious About Higher Education:

Curiosity about all things higher education is an internal thing. This curiosity is not driven (solely) by the needs of your job. In fact, your degree of curiosity can be a problem - as you will ask too many inconvenient questions. You will want to know what makes the people who work in higher ed tick. What do they care about? What worries them the most? What do they do all day long, and how has their job changed?

The higher ed curious will want to poke under the covers of how the place runs. They will look to discover new information about the people and the work at our schools that are outside of our own daily tasks. The higher ed curious will be constantly trying to figure out what makes the school (and the system) run, and will seek out this information by asking lots of (often annoying) questions to anyone who might possess some part of the answer.

2 - You Read Everything You Can About the History, Present, and Future of Higher Education:

You can’t be a student of higher education without being a reader. My bias is that a good student of higher education will read every book that they can get their hands on about the subject. And there are many to read. In 2015 I wrote a blog post called 36 Books On Higher Education.  Since then, we could add many more books to my list. (And please share your ideas about the books that students of higher education should read).

The challenge for the student of higher education is that there is too much to know - too much to read. Keeping up with all the important books on the subject that we should be reading is impossible. Throw in all the journal articles, news stories, white papers, and blog posts - and you could spend every waking minute reading about the past, present, and future of higher education. As far as I know, nobody is paid to be a student of higher education - so all this reading must be wedged in between our day jobs and our other responsibilities. Sometimes at the end of a long day of working in higher education, the last thing that we want to do is read more about higher education at home.

3 - You Are Part of a Community of Other Students of Higher Education:

We don’t learn about higher education in isolation.  We need to learn from each other.  We need to bounce ideas around.  We need to debate, argue, and listen.  Where this community of students of higher education now gathers is an interesting question.  Do we gather on our campuses?  Do we come together at professional conferences?  Or is the community of students of higher education a virtual community - colliding with each other on platforms such as IHE, Twitter, and the blogosphere?

4 - You See (Almost) Everything Else You Learn Through A Higher Ed Lens:

Student of higher education do not restrict their reading and conversations to only the past, present, and future of colleges and universities. We have lots of interests. We are curious about lots of things. The difference, I think, is that we will often ask how something new that we learn relates back to the world of higher education. We wonder how some new theoretical framework, some new idea, and how some new technology would play out on our campus.  We think about the impact of big trends and forces on how higher education is changing.  We look for patterns and weak signals in the wider world to make sense of the future of colleges and universities.

5 - You Love Higher Education, But You Want To See It Evolve:

What motivates someone to become a student of higher education?  Is it that the years spent as an undergraduate or graduate student were so formative that we never wanted to leave?  Is there something that is distinct about the higher education industry that makes us want to spend our time and energy trying to figure it out?  I have yet to meet a student of higher education who is satisfied with the status quo.  They all want to understand higher education so that they can make a positive impact.  They believe in the promise of higher education as an engine of economic and social opportunity - as a creator of both knowledge and of better people - but they don’t think that higher education is living up to its promise.  Issues of costs, access, and quality are too large to be left to the marketplace to sort out.

What would you add to this list of attributes of a student of higher education?

Would you say that the leadership of your college or university fits this description?

How and why did you become a student of higher education?


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