The New Traditional University Pillar

By Dr. Robert E. Johnson

It is again a pleasure and privilege to share my thoughts with you. I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog series The Academy, Leadership, and the Future is Now. As a New Traditional University, WNE prepares learners and earners for the Future of Work, equipping them to create value and thrive in a complex and hyperconnected world. It does this through three pillars: A New Traditional University, An Agile Mind Education, and Personal Exploration and Growth. In this and the next two blogs, I will explore in more detail each of the three pillars of Powerful Preparation for the Future of Work.

What is A New Traditional University?

As a New Traditional University, WNE embraces a distinctive and innovative institutional model that is responsive to the future. It honors the best in traditional education while invigorated by the challenges of the future. There are three components to the New Traditional University. 

First, it embraces a distinctive and innovative institutional model by seeking new approaches and taking calculated risks to improve outcomes. In a post-COVID world, the Academy as we have known it will forever be changed. For example, remote work has changed the way employees will interact in the workplace. What does this mean for the curriculum and learning? How do we prepare learners and earners for the future of work? The next blog on Agile Mind Education will talk about how this can be operationalized. The New Traditional University must be agile and adapt to a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. WNE is unique among National universities, with the advantage of being comprehensive yet personal, private, and nimble. 

Second, it is responsive to the future. It is defined by agility and motivation to create value, with an intentional approach in all aspects of the academic experience. It fosters personalization and empowers action to create new value in society. McKinsey Global Institute’s research suggests that 17 million workers may need to change occupations by 2030—not just change employers, but fully switch occupations, which typically takes longer, causes more disruption, and is more likely to require reskilling. That is 28% more workers changing occupations than had been forecast in pre-COVID-19 research. The New Traditional University will teach learners and earners to learn, unlearn, and relearn with a mindset to continuously create new value.

Third, it honors the best in traditional education while invigorated by the challenges of the future (anti-fragile). WNE is founded in professional studies and enhanced by the liberal arts and mentored research. The liberal arts provide students with essential human skills that cannot be replicated by a robot. Traditional education within the Academy teaches students how to think and solve for the unknown. We have learned during COVID that traditional face-to-face education and the social interaction of faculty with students is crucial to the learning experience. As leaders, we must protect this paradigm at all costs.

As a New Traditional University, WNE is a community of learners who value knowledge, the power of learning, and the strength of interdisciplinary creativity and innovation. By embracing change, selective experimentation, and action—WNE seeks always to create value as a continuous state.

I hope that my thoughts on the New Traditional University as a new model for higher education spur you to innovate and add value to your own pursuits. As a lifelong learner, I value your feedback and seek to gain new insights from our future interactions. Thank you.

Robert E. Johnson, PhD

Dr. Robert E. Johnson was appointed as the 6th president of Western New England University in August 2020, charged with leading the institution as it embarks on its second century.