2001 National Conference on Higher Education
Surveying the Landscape

From the April 2001 AAHE Bulletin

Highlights from AAHE's 2001 National Conference


"When did private gain become one of the purposes of higher education?" David Longanecker, former U.S. assistant secretary for postsecondary education and current executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, posed that provocative question at the conclusion of AAHE’s 2001 National Conference on Higher Education. Held March 25–27 in Washington, DC, the annual meeting attracted more than 1,000 educators.

Longanecker’s comments were particularly provocative considering the conference’s co-theme of "Balancing Private Gain and Public Good." His speech did not criticize, however, but instead encouraged educators to consider the ramifications of such things as corporate sponsorship, privatization of essential services, and providing companies customized training and research. When educational institutions act as vendors developing products for customers, he asked, "Have we sold our soul?"

"The danger is not that our leaders will be crowded out, it is that they will become comfortable steering us in the wrong direction," Longanecker explained.

He ended his call for diligence on a positive note, saying that when public good and private gain clash, "I believe that public policy will come alive to support public good."

The conference held much diversity of opinion on the public-private debate and many other topics, which holds with its other theme of "Surveying the Landscape."

Nowhere are those diverse themes more obvious than in the variety of sessions and activities offered by AAHE’s Caucuses.

The annual Celebration of Diversity Breakfast, this year organized by the Hispanic Caucus for the American Indian/ Alaskan Native Caucus, featured Ron McNeil, president of Sitting Bull College.

McNeil spoke on the need to make education more accessible and relevant to the increasingly more-diverse student population. "The contributions all minorities have made to this country need to be incorporated into all of the curriculum," McNeil explained.

The AAHE Black Caucus organized the plenary session featuring Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University, who spoke on "The Inclusion of African Americans and Other Minorities in 21st Century Higher Education." The Caucus also presented Francis with its Harold Delaney Exemplary Educational Leadership Award for his 30-year tenure at Xavier, which is the nation’s only historically black Catholic university.

The success of black students at Xavier and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities should be a lesson to other higher education institutions, Francis said, and those institutions should look at HBCUs as role models. All higher education institutions need to be able to meet the needs of minority students, he said, because our nation is dependent upon the education of all students for the country’s continued prosperity.

"Managing Academic Nastiness: Rekindling the Fire," one of seven sessions sponsored by AAHE’s Women’s Caucus, featured an interesting dialogue between attendees and presenter Norma Burgess, professor of child and family studies, Syracuse University, and chair of the Women’s Caucus. The group discussed how campus politics and bullies can hurt morale and ways to counteract that negativity.

The Women’s Caucus also sponsored a Women Deans Panel that attracted a standing-room-only crowd for the discussion on "Staying Power: Developing Strategies and Maintaining Alliances."

Felix Gutierrez, senior vice president of the Newseum, gave the Hispanic Caucus-sponsored Tomas Rivera lecture "Latina/os in the Acapolis: Have We Come a Long Way to Nowhere?" Gutierrez described "Acapolis" as an academic city with diverse responsibilities and constituencies and described his experiences as first a student and then an educator and administrator functioning in that environment.

The Asian and Pacific Caucus-sponsored session "Investing in Faculty Learning and Engagement" focused on new directions for faculty development centers, particularly the need to prepare and engage faculty in teaching and learning excellence and innovation. The session was one of many that utilized the expertise of community college educators. The Caucus also offered two preconference workshops on distance learning issues.

Teaching and learning issues were common session themes, with presentations on many new and innovative programs. Educators also used the conference as a place to discuss their latest research.

John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot, executive director and codirector of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, Brevard College, provided a first report on the results of a survey on student perceptions and experiences at more than 500 U.S. campuses. The purpose of this survey is to eventually identify characteristics of successful first-year programs and experiences.

And AAHE’s Research Forum hosted an all-conference session "Private Gain and Public Good: Creating a Research Agenda for Achieving Balance." That agenda will be available later this year.

Audio cassettes and CDs of conference sessions are available from Conference Media Contractors, www.cmc-net.com; email info@cmc-net.com; or call 888/222-1614.

Copyright © 2008 - American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation