Reflecting On 125 Years and Anticipating the Next 125Don Mroz | President, Post University
Milestones are something to be appreciated. They offer the opportunity to pause, reflect, change course when necessary, and visibly compare and contrast progress. In the case of Post University, recognizing our milestones has allowed us to prosper and evolve. As president of Post University, I have the distinct honor of shepherding a highly innovative educational organization, if only for a short snapshot in its evolutionary history. My own field of study is in human and organizational systems, so it is with great intrigue that I reflect on Post’s history and successes, while pondering its future and the challenges and triumphs that may lie ahead.
In organizations, people come and go. Peaks and valleys in business climates are endured, and if extremely fortunate, an organization will be sustained for a significant amount of time. In the case of Post University, several common themes have persisted throughout the years, allowing the organization to maintain vibrancy, while remaining stable and highly innovative. Post was founded 125 years ago with a focus on business needs. At that time, it was simply shorthand with training programs focused on bookkeeping and business writing. As the years passed, Post continued transforming to meet the demands of society, while maintaining its flair and focus on business. As societal changes came about, Post similarly changed and adapted by offering innovative programs. In 1939, Post became Post Junior College of Commerce to meet the demands of a crippled economy. Similarly, in 1976, when Vietnam veterans were returning stateside, Post University was one of the very first schools to offer distance learning programs to meet the needs of those who needed to work, but also attain a higher education and degrees.
More recently, this culture of innovation has become not only a common theme, but what Post is known for as we develop advanced online education opportunities and new degree programs that meet the specific needs of today’s workforce and modern society. For instance, we have recently introduced a new undergraduate degree called Emergency Management and Homeland Security, offer a fully online MBA program, and have partnered with a German university.
In the last few years, we have seen a significant change in the needs of students within different generations. As the economy has stalled, adults with already full lives have needed to increase their skills through online methodologies. Adults have high demands when it comes to customer satisfaction, which has become a core competency of our university. At the same time, a much younger generation—the Millennials—has come to Post with a proficient understanding of today’s technology, specifically mobile devices, thus challenging the historical/traditional approaches to teaching and learning on a university campus. We have found the key is to respond in a number of ways, to varying audiences, keeping flexibility at the forefront without compromising quality.
All of this sounds easy, but if one has followed higher education, traditions run deep, and change is not without resistance. Perhaps most difficult is encouraging change in faculty. As the old adage goes, “teachers teach as they were taught.” This can make the transitions difficult, requiring innovative methodologies, buy-in from faculty, and consistent practice of new methods and modalities. Fortunately for us, we have faculty who we consider to be “Scholar-Practitioners,” thus they have been in the real world, have advanced degrees, and are very open to change. Establishing a culture of change and innovation, coupled with an entrepreneurial bend is key to this all. Even when these aspects are integrated within your organization’s culture, it is imperative for mutual respect to exist at all levels, and an existing atmosphere of organizational learning where it is okay to challenge the status quo and allow trial and error without negative repercussions. The organization must be transparent and open to difficult conversations. I have found the saying “success breeds success” truly does work as long as we can identify and celebrate the successes, allowing the culture to evolve into a virtuous cycle that propels more success.
Certainly, changes do not happen without bumps along the way. Challenges, which must be seen as opportunities, cannot be identified as roadblocks. Creating an environment of persistence with a shared vision in mind is key. That means open communication, and communicating often about what is truly important to the organization. At Post, we are constantly reminding ourselves of our mission to educate students of all ages, fully engage faculty in all modalities, try new aspects related to teaching and learning; strive for quality in all things we do and build a culture of collaboration, respect, and learning.
We believe that if we can keep our heads up, listen to what is going on in the marketplace, test our assumptions regarding new innovations, and hear what our students want, we will continue to make progress in years to come. No one can predict the future, but it is clear that higher education will continue to demand adaptation to meet the changing needs of students and the workforce. Technology has changed the face of education, and so has the economic and social needs of our constituents. I anticipate that in 5 to 10 years from now, education will look different than it does today. As a leader in higher education at Post University, it is my responsibility to make certain that I spend my time preparing Post to endure and thrive in the next 125 years. It is fun and exhilarating to work in an organization that is dynamic and open to change, but it is also a very large responsibility for all of us to meet current and future student needs in order to make sure they are the best leaders they can be.
Post University has created an interactive infographic that illustrates our 125 year history and details our predictions for the future of higher education. We invite you to view it at http://www.thefutureofhighered.com/
Author Perspective: Administrator