A Thank-You to Bryan Alexander

Whom do you want to thank?

October 31, 2019

As we approach the Thanksgiving season, I thought it’d be a good time to give some thanks. At the end of this piece, I’ll ask you whom you’d like to publicly thank.

I’m going to start by thanking Bryan Alexander.

Bryan Alexander seems to be everywhere in higher ed. There may be no other scholar who is as integrated into as many postsecondary networks, communities and cabals as Bryan.

In our higher ed world at the intersection of learning and technology, everyone seems to know Bryan. There may be other thinkers, writers, consultants and educators in other academic disciplines and professional areas who are as ubiquitous and influential as Bryan. If there are, I bet Bryan knows them.

There are a couple of specific reasons to offer thanks to Bryan at this time. Before I do that, however, I should stipulate some connections. Bryan and I are both senior scholars at Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, and Bryan teaches graduate seminars in Georgetown’s Learning, Design and Technology program.

Bryan and I, along with my co-author and CNDLS executive director Eddie Maloney, share the same publisher (JHU Press) and editor (Greg Britton) for both of our upcoming books. Both Bryan’s book, Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education, and my book with Eddie, Learning Innovation and the Future of Higher Education, are coming out in early 2020.

In our book, Eddie Maloney and I discuss the role that Bryan plays in higher education as an independent scholar. Bryan occupies an alternative academic role that allows him to think and write critically about the future of higher education.

In effect, Bryan has granted himself tenure, by diversifying his revenue stream across colleges and universities, rather than being dependent on any single institution. As most of us within the learning innovation community are employed by a university, and are not protected by the academic freedom that tenure affords, Bryan’s work as an independent scholar serves a vital function within higher education.

As regular readers of Bryan’s writing know, he is committed to being as transparent as possible in detailing the life of an independent scholar. He is willing to talk about what it takes to support the creation of research and writing, and the development of an academic community. Bryan’s openness and generosity in sharing practical and specific advice about speaking/keynoting/facilitating/consulting are greatly appreciated.

When it comes to figuring out how to get the word about your scholarship, it is actually quite daunting thinking about the platforms that Bryan has developed to gather community and share ideas. His Future Trends Forum and his subscription “Future Trends in Technology and Education” monthly report are two examples of Bryan’s reach.

While it would be impossible to match Bryan’s digital communications breadth or energy (not even mentioning his Twitter feed and Facebook posts, and who knows where else Bryan is omnipresent), all of us can learn from Bryan’s example as a generator of ideas and as a cultivator of communities.

So thank you to Bryan Alexander for all the ways in which you are entangled with our community, for your scholarship, your kindness, and your generosity.

I firmly believe that in the next five years that Bryan will win the MacArthur genius award, and I will do everything that I can to get his work in front of whoever decides on that prize.

Whom would you like to publicly thank?

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Joshua Kim

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