Finding opportunities for new thinking

As a child growing up in the suburbs of Minneapolis the Mississippi River was a giant, deep, fast flowing river that we crossed on a large bridge going to grandma’s house. It seemed impossible to swim it or cross it on foot.  The future challenges we face in higher education are as turbulent as the fast flowing river I knew growing up and as daunting to overcome. Yet, as the picture of me crossing the Mississippi River at Lake Itasca demonstrates, the unimaginable can be accomplished if we open ourselves up to innovative thinkers from outside our usual sphere of influence.  Itasca 73_2

The ITASCAproject – Higher Education Partnerships for Prosperity  initiative is an example of collaboration across educational and governmental boundaries that provides leaders in higher education access to a wider network of innovative thinkers. The Itasca Project is an employer-led civic alliance that recognizes the future challenges we face in higher education are beyond the scope and capabilities of any one group and any single jurisdiction. And that we can make the progress we need only through active cooperation among the public, nonprofit and business sectors.  12 executive leaders from business, non-profits and higher education are guided by the input of over 40 business, community and higher education thought leaders.  The report identifies 4 overall strategies:

  1. Align academic offerings with workforce needs
  2. Foster an ecosystem of research and innovation
  3. Form new collaborations across higher education to optimize intellectual assets and efficiency
  4. Graduate more students

The commitment, new ideas and new approaches that wider collaborations, like the Itasca Project, provide to leaders in higher education are the rocks that can help us innovate our way across the turbulent river of higher education in the United States!

Where do you find your new ideas?

Todd Thorsgaard


2 responses to “Finding opportunities for new thinking

  1. Michael Van Keulen

    Thanks for the link to this report, Todd! I definitely don’t get my ideas by sitting in my office staring at my computer screen. I get them from by getting out of my office and attending conferences, working on task forces, meeting with other individuals in both similar and different roles from me, and also reading literature from both inside and outside the higher education discipline.


    • Michael, I had a coffee meeting yesterday with an agriculture faculty member and we explored a number of new ideas. Thanks for sharing your ideas!


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