Dear La Salle Community,
Today we are witnessing more and more ‘disruption;’ radical changes caused by the sudden introduction of new technology, new products or new approaches. As Generation Z further comes of age, we have observed disruptions in media with information shifting to free online sources, and disruptions across retail as mall shopping has been relegated to the over-50 set while Amazon provides everything to everyone. The demand for instant gratification – whether experienced as live-streaming Netflix or curated Spotify playlists – is insatiable.
Education is not immune to disruption and is, according to several commentators, ready for a rethink. When you consider that current approaches to education have not changed that much since the Industrial Revolution, we find a sector that is ripe for radical change! And this change has begun, with the advent of online learning and a shift towards a greater appetite for professional studies. As edu-innovators, we seek ways to integrate what is critical about a liberal arts education, while keeping a focus on practical applications and soft skills that will prepare our students for careers that do not yet exist. All of this drives disruption.
What is becoming clear is that, for higher education to remain relevant to current and future generations, we must think beyond technology, remaining committed to high-quality offerings and an accessible college “experience.” If a college education is financially beyond reach, or if that education and the knowledge we impart does not have a practical application, then we have failed in our mission. As various disruptions challenge us to examine everything we do, La Salle remains committed to ensuring our experience continues to be rich, meaningful, challenging, and accessible. How do we achieve both affordability and excellence in crafting a college experience that is mission-aligned and sustainable?
While data from the latest Federal Reserve study on the economic health of American consumers reports that a college degree doubles one’s annual income, it also reports that college debt is now the second largest source of personal debt. As colleges go through disruption and radical transformation, we must emerge with great accessibility and affordability. La Salle’s Affordable Path for All will reduce our tuition this coming fall by almost 30 percent, thereby placing the University in a leadership role in increasing affordability, access, and transparency.
How do we begin to define the La Salle graduate as distinct from those who complete their college experiences elsewhere? Over the past year, we have spent time articulating the unique qualities of a La Salle education, and looked at those traits, orientations, skills, and characteristics of our graduates that are the unique result of a La Salle education. And we have identified 12 Institutional Learning Outcomes through this process, and grouped them around the four key commitments of a La Salle education: broader identity, expanded literacies, effective expression, and active responsibility. So, what makes our graduates unique?
La Salle Explorers go forth into the world formed academically, spiritually, socially, and physically to succeed as professionals, global citizens, and civic-minded leaders. They each blaze their own path forward, but with recognition of their responsibility to help those at the margins of society. Our graduates are champions of peace and equality, and advocates for social justice. As the world around us becomes more divided, with increasing disparity between ‘haves and have nots’, these commitments and outcomes have never been more relevant, or more needed. This task of defining our graduates’ unique outcomes and helping them articulate and understand their gifts is exciting work that will continue to animate the months ahead.
As I close this note, La Salle University continues to build momentum, to invite radical change and encourage disruption. As we launch our Class of 2017 Explorers into the world as agents of change for the good, we also await the arrival of what we expect to be one of our largest and most talented freshman classes ever. We are truly blessed, and I remain grateful for your continued support.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.