Higher Ed Leaders Call for Innovation, Entrepreneurial Approach

Does higher education need to adjust its focus to encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship? Is the era of memorization over?

Yes, say a group of higher education leaders in Texas speaking at a Communities Foundation of Texas event. They were asked by Krys Boyd, managing editor of KERA 90.1 midday talk show Think, “what higher education needs more of and what it can do without,” according to Bill Hethcock of Dallas Business Journal.

“It’s time to give up old ways of doing things and be innovative and creative,” said Ronald Brown, president of the University of North Texas at Dallas.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools granted the University of North Texas at Dallas independent accreditation, giving the institution a separate identity from the University of North Texas in Denton through which the school was previously accredited. This independence gives them an opportunity to re-invent themselves and back up talk of innovation with action.

David Daniel, who is president of the University of Texas at Dallas, said universities must mold students who are not afraid to shake up the status quo.

“Give up rote memorization and focus on creativity,” Daniel said. “I don’t think we want to try to outcompete China, India and Singapore by having superior memorization capabilities. I think a human creative talent which blossoms throughout this entire ecosystem of education we’ve been hearing about is the key to our success.”

Felix Zamora, president of Mountain View College in the Dallas Community College District, said it is time to put focus on new ways of doing things and give up looking for the “silver bullet” fix to the current situation.

“If you were going to build a new car, you wouldn’t start from the same factory,” Zamora said. “You’d have to look at the manufacturing process, look at the materials. We’ve got to get down to the DNA of what we’re doing wrong and innovate and look for answers.”

David Chard, dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, said we should now give up the “industrial complex” of education and focus on entrepreneurship instead.

That, simply put, means figuring what works, whether its an old idea or a new one, he said. “Innovation isn’t always the answer,” Chard said. “Sometimes it’s just finding what worked and using it again. And in some cases, the entrepreneurship involves innovation.”

Pushing students toward entrepreneurship and innovation could be a smart move for colleges. According to a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, rule-breakers are more likely to succeed in business than their more rule-abiding peers.

The paper, authored by economists Yona Rubinstein and Ross Levine, used data from the March Supplements of the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, along with the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.

The paper draws conclusions about which kinds of demographic traits make it more likely for someone not only to start their own business rather than working for a salary, but also for that business to achieve success — and data shows the edge going to those who are comfortable bending the rules and pushing boundaries.