Coming Attractions: James Duderstadt

March 15, 2011

I’m jumping the gun a bit here: calling attention to a paper by James Duderstadt on “A Master Plan for Higher Education in the Midwest.”  It will be released on March 31 as a Heartland Paper by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. I’ll try to remember to post a link when it appears.  The Council also hosts Richard Longworth’s excellent blog,  The Midwesterner: Blogging the Global Midwest, from which I learned about this.

Duderstadt is President Emeritus of the University of Michigan, and has said interesting, uncommon, optimistic things about economic development in the Midwest, and why higher education is a key to our future.  A brief overview of the paper is below.

My thanks to the interesting blog, , for calling attention to this.

There have been two earlier Heartland papers:

Issue 2 – “Past Silos and Smokestacks: Transforming the Rural Economy in the Midwest,” by Mark Drabenstott, secretary general of the Global Coalition for Efficient Logistics and former director of the Center for Regional Competitiveness at the Rural Policy Research Institute. Released on March 18, 2010.

Issue 1 – “Mexican Immigration in the Midwest: Meanings and Implications,” by Rob Paral, principal of Rob Paral and Associates and research fellow for the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Law Foundation. Released on April 29, 2009.

Drabenstott, the author of “Past Silos and Smokestacks” is Earlham ’77.

Here’s the overview of the Duderstadt paper:

“In his recent book, Caught in the Middle, Richard Longworth portrays the challenge to the Midwestern United States in a compelling way:

“Today, the Midwest region is in transition, struggling to retain the best of its social, cultural, and economic traditions while at the same time trying to reinvent itself for success in a very different economic milieu. Much of its current mal aise reflects the passing of an agrarian and industrial econ omy that supported the region for a century. Part of it is the arrival of globalization and three billion new workers, most from Asia and Eastern Europe, each ready to do the heavy lifting and low-skill assembly-line work that once put bread on Midwestern tables. Part of it is the dawning of the knowl edge economy in a region where a high school diploma used to buy a ticket to the middle-class life—and today is only the fare to poverty.

“To achieve prosperity and security in a hypercompetitive global, knowledge-driven economy, the American Midwest faces the chal lenge of transforming what was once the farming and manufac turing center of the world economy into what could become its knowledge center. Put another way, while the Midwest region once provided the muscle for the manufacturing economy that powered the twentieth century, now it must make the commitment and the investments necessary to become the brains of the twenty-first cen tury knowledge economy.

“For the past four decades, I have experienced (and endured) this wrenching transformation at ground zero as a faculty member and then president of the University of Michigan. From this experi ence, as well as many others at the national and international level, I have become convinced of several imperatives of the brave, new world facing the Midwest: First, knowledge and innovation are the drivers of the global economy today, and their importance will only intensify in the future. Second, and as a consequence, educated people, the knowledge they produce, and the innovation and entre preneurial skills they possess have become the keys to economic prosperity, public health, national security, and social well-being. Third, while the characteristics of the American culture—a diverse population, democratic values, free-market practices, a predictable legal system—provide a fertile environment for innovation, history has shown that significant public and private investment is neces sary to produce the key ingredients of innovation: new knowledge (e.g., research), world-class human capital (e.g., education), infra structure (e.g., institutions, facilities, and networks), and policies (e.g., tax, investment, and intellectual property). And finally, I agree completely with Longworth and many others that while action at the state and national level will be important, the vision, power, and opportunity is shifting rapidly to the regional level driven by major metropolitan areas.

“Hence when Richard Longworth approached me to prepare a report for The Chicago Council’s Heartland Papers series on the role of higher education could play—indeed, must play—in the transformation of the Midwest region into a learning- and innova tion-driven society, I was pleased to respond. My first inclination was to approach this task very much in the spirit of the California Master Plan, developed by President Clark Kerr of the University of California and his colleagues during a period of extraordinary economic and demographic change in 1960. Yet, my own experi ence with both that state and the University of California made it clear that while a “master plan” focused on higher education made sense in the mid-twentieth century, today one must broaden con siderations to include all stages of education—K-12, higher educa tion, workplace training, lifelong learning—indeed, “cradle to grave” learning needs, opportunities, and experiences. Furthermore, such a study would have to encompass all of the missions of the contempo rary university—education, scholarship, engagement, health care, economic development, innovation, entrepreneurial activities, and, of course, traditional roles, such as preserving and transmitting cul ture and serving as a social critic. Finally, while the California Master Plan was an extraordinary success, setting simple albeit challenging and compelling goals that would guide public higher education in the state for decades, today it is likely that a “strategic process” will be more important than a “strategic plan.” Here my experience with the Bologna Process that is currently transforming higher education in Europe would be invaluable.

“This report, then, should be viewed as one effort to develop not only a vision and plan to utilize the Midwest’s rather considerable higher education assets to enable its transformation into a learning and innovation society, but as well to suggest both tactics and a pro cess required to sustain this effort for the long haul.”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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One Response to Coming Attractions: James Duderstadt

  1. Pingback: Should College Be an Entitlement? | The Observatory

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