Taking the longer view

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. –Iroquois Nation Maxim

An important aspect of stewardship is to consider the legacy we are leaving for future generations.

Japanese GardenA few years ago a friend traveled to Japan. She told me about a park she visited there. It was celebrating the completion of its 100-year master plan, and was just now fulfilling the vision of its original designers.  The trees were grown, the rocks at the waterside were properly weathered, and visitors were able to enjoy the fulfilled vision for what the space could be.

In mainstream U.S. culture, long-term planning is often thought of in terms of five- or ten-year spans.  Higher education sometimes takes a longer view.  But there are few occasions when we stop to ask “what do we want to be in 100 years?”

This is an important question given the current pace of change in higher education. We often feel like we don’t know what the next few years will hold, or whether anything recognizable will remain when today’s toddlers are ready for college. Dealing with fast-paced change is important, but it’s also worth asking what needs to stay the same. That’s a great way to clarify our values and what is core to our mission.

I suspect, if MnSCU is to thrive for the next 100 years, we will still be providing an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans. We will be partnering with employers and communities. And we will be offering access to all at an affordable price.  We probably can’t even imagine what that will look like, but like the architects in the Japanese park, we need to think about which trees to plant and which boulders to place now so that the foundation is there for future generations to build upon.

Dee Anne Bonebright

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