University Begins ‘Southeast in the Year 2020’ Initiative


Pres_KennethDobbins_2005CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 25, 2011 — Consistent with its mission to “prepare individuals to participate responsibly in a diverse and technologically advanced world,” Southeast Missouri State University President Kenneth W. Dobbins has announced a new initiative to look at university education in the future, entitled “Southeast in the Year 2020.”

According to Dobbins, “Colleges and universities that ignore the trends shaping the future will cease to be relevant and will quickly decline in quality and enrollment.

“Our enrollments have broken all-time records for the past 11 years. We are The University of First Choice:  First Choice for students, First Choice for faculty and staff; and First Choice for employers who hire our graduates.  We must be prepared to make changes to insure that Southeast Missouri State University will still be The University of First Choice in 2020.

“We are experiencing rapid change in information technology and the expanding global economy. Our challenge was stated quite clearly by Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric when he said, ‘If the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight,’” Dobbins said.

To study the trends in higher education and to begin planning for the students of 2020, an eight-member “Southeast in the Year 2020” Steering Committee was named.  The steering committee is chaired by Dr. William Eddleman, chair of the Department of Biology.  Members of the committee include Dr. Frank Barrios, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Dr. Debbie Below, assistant vice president of Enrollment Management; Dr. Allen Gathman, professor of Biology and director of the Writing Center; Katie Herring, president of Student Government; Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, chair of Industrial and Engineering Technology; Dr. Sophia Scott, assistant professor of Industrial and Engineering Technology and chair of the Faculty Senate; and David Wilde, professional staff in Information Technology.  Ex officio members of the steering committee are Dobbins and Provost Ron Rosati with Diane Sides, assistant to the president, serving as recorder.

According to Eddleman, chair of the steering committee, there are some clear trends in American society today that are likely to have long-term consequences on higher education.

“Because one of the major roles of education is to prepare students for life in the future, an awareness of higher education trends by educators is essential if our university is to achieve its objectives.”

Eddleman said members of the steering committee agree that higher education needs to rethink, redesign and reposition itself and its delivery systems considering the changes in funding sources, the global and local environment, the changing use of technology, the nature and culture of future students and how they learn, and other factors, just to name a few.

Dobbins said Southeast needs to be planning now for the needs of the students the university will serve in the Year 2020.

“The economy and technology advances have a bearing on what jobs are available today and what jobs may be available in the Year 2020.  It is safe to say that many children who currently are in the third grade will be graduating from high school in the Year 2020 and will be exploring education for jobs that haven’t even been created. In a few years, those third graders will be asking us questions like:  What is college?  Why should I go? What kind of technology will I be using? Can I learn from this university?” Dobbins said.

Both Dobbins and Eddleman agree that those may be the defining questions for colleges and universities over the next decade. They reflect a fundamental transformation in the way students see higher education and how and when they expect to receive classes and academic programs.

The steering committee has been meeting since January and in collaboration with members of the campus community has identified a list of issues they believe should be investigated and evaluated for Southeast in the Year 2020.

After researching and discussing those issues, five subcommittees were created for technology; curriculum, academics, and academic programs; the role of faculty; student services; and student demographic changes.  Additional faculty and staff were selected to serve on those subcommittees.  A list of the membership of all committees can be found at


Today’s adult population learned primarily in a traditional, face-to-face school room setting.  Today, inexpensive small technological devices such as smart phones, I-pads and e-readers allow access to learning opportunities anywhere at any time.  Since students expect to use compact technologies, universities must look at how those devices impact how students learn and how we should be defining higher education.

The subcommittee on technology, which will be co-chaired by Wilde and Mary Harriet Talbut, instructor in middle and secondary education, will look at how academic instruction will change based on social networking and technology, what university services students may expect to get via their smart-phones or I-pads, how the distribution of information may change in upcoming years, the flexibility that students may demand in course offerings and scheduling based on online learning, and how technology may change.  In addition, they will explore international marketing of online programs, including issues such as the blocking of some university sites in foreign countries such as China and Canada.

Curriculum, Academics, and Academic Programs

The Curriculum, Academics, and Academic Programs Subcommittee will be co-chaired by Gathman and Dr. Michael Taylor, assistant professor of Biology.  While academic program review is an ongoing process at Southeast – in the last five years, every academic program at Southeast has been reviewed – it is imperative that the university look at what academic programs may be needed by the Year 2020.  Even more importantly, the students of 2020 will expect flexibility in terms of the types of programs they may wish to pursue and the length and time courses are offered.

Dobbins indicated that students may wish to pursue more short-term or certificate programs in specific content areas and degree offerings may need to change.

The subcommittee also will look at distance education, life-learning credits, accreditation and assessment issues, changes in general education, increasing collaboration between Southeast and other institutions, the globalization of education and pedagogy.

Role of Faculty

The role of faculty continues to change as technology has changed from the teacher/scholar model to the role of managers of information.  This subcommittee, co-chaired by Scott and Dr. Debbie Lee-DiStefano, associate professor of Foreign Languages, will research what instructional methods may look like in the Year 2020, and how those methods and faculty structures may change based on technology, how faculty and staff may themselves be educated in the future, and other issues that deal with the role of the faculty in the future.

Student Services

The Student Services Subcommittee will be co-chaired by Below and Dr. Bruce Skinner, director of Residence Life.  Issues and trends that will be explored include future flexibility in financial aid packages, working more closely with high school students, life-learning credits, facing growing competition from “for-profit” and private institutions, and the implementation of a one-stop shop at Southeast to provide advising, financial assistance, admissions, career and academic counseling and placement.  The subcommittee also will explore issues with specific student groups, including veterans and nontraditional students.

Student Demographic Changes

The Student Demographic Changes Subcommittee will be exploring areas dealing with the changes in student populations such as age, race, number of students who will be graduating from high schools in 2020, and geographic locations of future students.  In addition, the subcommittee will look at program offerings for minority students, first-generation college attenders and veterans, financial aid and admission standards, and the impact on curriculum as the government and others have differing views on the education of underrepresented groups.

This subcommittee will be co-chaired by Barrios and Dr. Warren Anderson, professor of Anthropology.

According to Dobbins, several of the subcommittees will be looking at some short-term goals and will be issuing reports by the end of the academic year.  But the majority of the work of the Southeast in the Year 2020 subcommittees will be issued in reports by the end of the 2011-2012 academic year.