Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We at the University of Iowa are delighted to host this dinner with you tonight. It is always a tremendous privilege to connect with our community colleges, and I am very much enjoying this opportunity to share a meal and some thoughts with such talented higher education leaders.

Our partnership with community colleges has never been more important. The idea of the university for many people over the years has been that is an institution for comprehensive education. It has often been thought of as an institution where all the disciplines are brought together to be made available, not quite under one roof, but on one campus. Even though the offerings and the role of the university have expanded over time, the increasingly complex demands of our society have made it more and more clear that the “one-stop” idea of a university is no longer valid—if it ever truly was.

If you dig into the Latin origins of the word “university,” you will find that a good English translation is a “community of teachers and scholars.” That word “community” strikes me as very telling and essential. The community of teachers and scholars that our society needs today is broad and varied. It cannot be contained by one institution, no matter how large. Community colleges probably figured that out even before we did at the universities. Your own institutional names are very telling, with “community” at their very heart.

One of the most famous historical texts on higher education is from the nineteenth century, John Henry Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University. Today, in the twenty-first century, the idea of the university is seen most powerfully not within our campus confines. The current best idea of the university—as a community of teachers and scholars—is in the collaborations we have formed with you that transcend any one of our campuses.

Indeed, one of the greatest points of pride in my presidency of the University of Iowa has been the swiftly growing number of partnerships that we have formed with community colleges across the state. From the two-plus-two programs that make transfers to the university seamless, to full-blown cooperative degree programs on some of your campuses and in your communities, we are proud partners with all of you in this room tonight, bringing an accessible, high-quality education to all Iowans from border to border and river to river.

One of the greatest perks for me of these growing collaborations has been the opportunity to travel to many of your communities to formalize our agreements. I have been both humbled and inspired by the warm welcomes and enthusiastic receptions we have received in your wonderful cities, towns, and regions. I have been able to see firsthand the spirit and ambition of the citizens of our state and the high quality of life that Iowans enjoy all across Iowa. When we at the UI are able to bring the best education directly to the people of your communities in collaboration with you—that is truly the definition of a community of teachers and scholars.

As I often say when I visit your communities and schools, we are in transformative times. Our economy—on local, regional, national, and international levels—is undergoing a revolution. The demands on our time grow greater, and the need for continuous updating of our professional skills grows more intense. At the same time, the technological and institutional variety available to us for education and professional development has never been more diverse and abundant. Tremendous opportunities for innovation in teaching and learning now lie before us. Our need—as educators and students—to take advantage of them is urgent, yet the promise they present for our futures is thrilling.

We have formed partnerships with you not because we have to, but because we want to—for the prosperity and fulfillment of Iowans who are seeking better lives for themselves, their families, their communities, and their society at large. Our collaborations are models for the ways in which public higher education institutions across our state can work together to provide the best opportunities possible for Iowans.

Again, it is an honor and a joy to gather with you this evening for a great meal and enlightening conversation. Thank you for inviting us to join you, and thank you for your remarkable leadership and vision that make Iowa’s community colleges among the very best in the nation. We are proud to be your partners in providing the highest quality and most accessible education possible to the wonderful people of our state.