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Advancing Resilience Through Higher Education

I was honored to present the Campus Resilience Game at the National Association for College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) Annual Meeting this week with Erika Bailey-Johnson from Bemidji State University, Shane Stennes from the University of Minnesota, and Kevin Holm from LHB. We led teams through the interactive game to explore the connections between campus maintenance, financing sustainability strategies, and responding resiliently to weather and other events.

These themes ran throughout the conference, aiming to equip business officers to stay relevant and adapt to a rapidly changing world. I enjoyed getting a more in-depth financial perspective on issues that I explore from an architectural perspective, including the financing and legal structure of public-private partnerships, the future of campus technology, and enterprise risk management. Two major themes of the conference were highlighted by the keynote speakers, both originally from Minnesota:

Higher Education in the Age of Accelerations

Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat and New York Times columnist, discussed the Age of Accelerations and its impact on Higher Education. Friedman described a world where the pace of change is so great that continuous learning holds more value than a four year degree. The institutions that will thrive in this environment are those that seek resilience and innovation, fostering motivated and curious students that seek a lifelong relationship with learning (and their alma mater). Thought-provoking statements included:

  • Naivete is the new Realism. What is really naive is believing that it is all going to be OK in this day and age.

  • It's not the number of people who are succeeding that matters. It's the number of people who want to be caught trying.

  • We have never been living our lives in such a space without God, and we have never been so godlike, where one of us could destroy all of us but all of us can save all of us. What is needed is an embrace of Sustainability and the Golden Rule.

Diversity & Inclusion in Higher Education

Michele Norris, founder of The Race Card Project and former host of All Things Considered, spoke about her work fostering dialogue about race and the necessity to create cultures on campus encourage these discussions. Having diversity on campus does not guarantee that the culture is inclusive, and if the culture is not inclusive, everyone misses out. Norris had stories about her family's experience in Minneapolis that were tough to hear, and offered these thoughts as a path forward:

  • Don't let fear get in the way of doing the right thing, the hard thing, or the difficult thing.

  • I'm a good storyteller, not because I know how to put words together, but because I learned how to listen. We have two ears, but one mouth.

  • Grace goes a long way with everything in life. Rather than assuming the worst, give people a chance to restate what they said.

Bonus: the conference was hosted here in Minneapolis, where the Convention Center recently received LEED Certification due in part to the hard work of some of my former colleagues at LHB. Check out the new seal below.

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