“Big Questions” event discusses higher education in a changing world


Technology and the Internet are threatening the relevance of university education, according to Provost Nowell Donovan.

At the second "Big Questions" event on Tuesday, a group of 14 students, faculty and staff gathered to discuss the need for universities to adapt to the evolution of technology to remain relevant.

“A graph in Economist Magazine showed that the world population hit seven billion people this year. That’s a huge increase in population and a significant challenge for universities,” said Donovan. "People will need food, water, resources, and technology that will make universities obsolete."

Donovan, the guest speaker at the event, sparked group discussion with a short speech about how the role of the university will change in an expanding world.

"If universities do not adapt and do not realize the world is changing, they will become irrelevant and something else will take their place, like knowledge and technology," he said.

Pearce Edwards, president of the Honors Cabinet, asked the students, faculty and staff that attended the event whether universities are necessary for education in the 21st century.

Anthony Hernandez, a senior communication studies major, thought technology and the Internet are helpful for information, but that a university setting is necessary to be successful.

"The value of the university is to co-construct things, to work off one another, to listen and gain feedback and to work as teams. That's what the university does for us," he said. "If we were to work by ourselves, no matter how intelligent, we would plateau. There would be no progression."

Edwards agreed and said that college is all about relationships, not about the learning.

"We have relationships with friends, mentors and professors that help us with critical thinking. The expertise that faculty brings makes the difference between regular knowledge and university learning. Faculty brings learning strategies, and face-to-face expertise makes the difference," Edwards said.

John Singleton, director of International Student Services, said that university is important to education because of tradition, and that higher education needs to remain relevant.

"If the importance of university to education diminishes, our lives are affected," he said. "We need innovation and creativity to adapt to the changes in the world."

The next "Big Questions" event will take place in the Spring 2013 semester.