Future of U.S. Higher Education Focus of Spring Lecture Series

Five national experts to speak at Duke

American higher education is considered the best in the world, but is it losing its competitive edge? Five national experts will provide a broad critique on the future of the American collegiate experience this spring at Duke University in a lecture series, "Re-imagining the Academy."

"It is essential that leading institutions embrace this debate vigorously if we are to maintain the excellence that has so long characterized our work," said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. "Duke is committed to taking a hard look at how we can improve the way college and universities engage with today's students and prepare them for the future. We welcome the diverse views this lecture series will bring to our campus."

The series, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Duke's Bass Society of Fellows, a group of distinguished faculty who seek to develop innovative ways to connect students and faculty in an academic setting.

Stephen Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education, conceived of the idea for the inaugural lecture series after speaking with Provost Peter Lange.

"It is crucial for us to acknowledge contemporary challenges to the effectiveness and relevancy of the education we offer," said Nowicki, a member of the Bass Society. "We must be willing and able to adapt without losing the core values of a liberal education, or we may follow the path of the dinosaurs."

The speakers, in the order of their visits, will include:

-- Feb. 2. Laura Palmer Noone is the former president and chief academic officer of the for-profit University of Phoenix, and helped build that institution into the largest university in the United States, with more than 600,000 students currently enrolled and 100 degree programs offered at more than 200 locations and on the internet. Room 04, Sanford School of Public Policy-- Feb. 17. Eduardo Ochoa is the assistant secretary for postsecondary education in the Obama administration. He served for more than 30 years as a professor and university administrator prior to his appointment in 2010. York Reading Room, Divinity School-- Feb. 21. Ben Wildavsky is a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and, before that, was education editor of U.S. News & World Report, where he was the top editor of America's Best Colleges and America's Best Graduate Schools. He is author of "The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World" (2010). Additional co-sponsors include: Duke Libraries, the Office of Global Programs and Strategy, and the Office of Public Affairs and Government Relations. Gothic Reading Room, Perkins Library-- Feb. 24. Louis Menand is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine. His most recent book is "The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University" (2010). Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center-- March 16. Mark C. Taylor is chair of the religion department at Columbia University. His recent book "Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities" (2010) expands on the thesis of his widely-read 2009 New York Times op-ed "The End of the University as We Know It." Room 04, Sanford School of Public Policy.All lectures will take place at 5 p.m. - - - -The Bass Society, named after philanthropists Anne T. and Robert M. Bass, honors Duke faculty members who have achieved excellence in both research and undergraduate teaching. The Bass Society of Fellows also seeks to develop innovative ways to connect students and faculty in an academic setting, as well as to bring together various disciplines. The 2011 Bass Society's inaugural lecture series is co-sponsored by Kenan Institute for Ethics and the Center for Instructional Technology.