If higher education is a ship, it has struck an iceberg. It’s taking on water rapidly, and while the situation is urgent, many people on board simply refuse to acknowledge what’s happening.

The lifeboats in this metaphor? Disruption.

That may sound a little dramatic, but it’s undeniable that many colleges and universities are stuck in 20th-century—or even 19th- century—models of higher education. In our 21st-century world, that’s no longer acceptable. Institutions are floundering, and if they don’t start to catch up, they are going to sink.

The need for disruption

How my university is disrupting higher education

Disruption in higher education needs to happen everywhere, from admissions processes to business practices and from the way we teach to the way we determine student outcomes.

At Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, we’re examining every aspect of what’s “traditional” in higher education, right down to the core of the culture. Higher education should be fueled by the desire to deliver opportunities and build meaningful career prospects for a wide range of students. It should not be driven by a sense of elitism—by outdated notions of who deserves to participate, whether it’s who gets to attend or who’s in the room to make decisions about the future.

(Next page: See how Maryville is changing the way it delivers instruction, upgrades the student experience, and more)

About the Author:

Mark Lombardi, PhD, has served as president of Maryville University in St. Louis, Missouri, since 2007. In that time, Maryville has achieved unprecedented growth and earned national distinction for leading an exciting revolution in higher education.  For 30 years, at three different institutions, Lombardi has served as a faculty member, department chair, director of international programs, vice president for academic affairs, provost, and president. He has also served as executive director of the U.S.-Africa Education Foundation.


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