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Insights from the Environmental Scan

A careful review and analysis of the Environmental Scanning Materials leads to a number of conclusions about the forces shaping the strategic landscape over the next five years and beyond.

Severe Recession and Protracted Recovery

Since 2008 the United States and much of the global economy has been in the grip of the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The State of California has been especially hard hit. Moreover, this recession was triggered by fundamental financial imbalances rather than being just a cyclical adjustment. This means the recovery will be slower and require readjustments in everyone's assumptions and ambitions, in organizational resilience, personal behavior, spending, debt, government programs and revenues, and economic structures and relationships - globally. The University must grapple with and understand the continuing impacts and meaning of these developments for our future - they will be defining elements for the time period covered by the Strategic Plan.

Productivity, Professional Practice and Workplace Realignments

The Great Recession of the early 21st century has accelerated an already ongoing process - the realignment of employment, professional practice, and workforce conditions in every industry, profession, and trade. These changes have been enabled by new applications of technology, the advancing use of artificial intelligence, and social networking. Even before the recession, changes have been emerging in job requirements, personal productivity, and the patterns and cadences of professional practices (1). During the recession, employers have reduced staffing levels, relying on increased productivity and realigned practices.

But the longer-term trend is that over the next decades new fields will emerge requiring new approaches and creating new opportunities for teaching and accreditation (for example, e- and neuro- Humanities), while virtually every field of today will be substantially realigned - not just as a short-term reaction to recession, but as a long-term strategy. This is coupled with the concern, raised by authors like Tyler Cowan in his e-book, The Great Stagnation and Michael Mandelbaum in "Innovation Interrupted", that the American economy for the past decade or more has not turned innovations by US citizens, scientists and corporations into commercial breakthroughs exploited in the US and into US workforce opportunities with the same rate as in our recent past. Internet-economy-based innovations have yet to generate the US workforce dividends provided by earlier generations of innovation. Is the Web-based economy still too new, or will it continue to underperform on the workforce front, as suggested by Martin Ford in The Lights in the Tunnel? The answer will determine the level of future investments in American education.

University of the Pacific must understand these emerging conditions and their implications for our core value proposition: preparing students for lives of meaning, self-actualization and success in the 21st century world. This will require a willingness to consider new options and practices, to reach out to employers in new ways, and to engage visionaries with insights into the future of work and learning. To shape our strategic thinking, we must better understand the still-emerging future of learning, work, and professional practice in 21st Century America.

Affordability, Value and Competition

The Great Recession is affecting the personal wealth and well-being of learners and their families. The adjustments and realignments necessary for recovery will likely continue to erode the capacity of families to pay for learning. Access to external sources of financial assistance will become increasingly limited and expensive. Observers expect erosion in both the ability and willingness of learners and their families to incur debt for the promise of education as a gateway to the good life.

The debt crisis in American higher education has led to an energetic debate about whether higher education is the next "bubble (2)." While recent student surveys show that confidence in the value of education remains high, will that continue to be the case over the next 5-10 years? (3)

In the environment of the next decade, it will be essential to deliver the results that students are looking for, and to pay close attention to affordability and value, which will be important as never before. While University of the Pacific has arguably gained competitive ground recently due to the difficulties of its public university competitors, this is no time for complacency. New competitors and fresh alternatives to traditional higher education are likely to emerge. These may challenge the University of the Pacific in unforeseen ways. They may even provide unforeseen opportunities. The University needs to aggressively reconsider its perspectives, programs, and value propositions in light of these developments. The Provost's Leadership Retreat in June discussed these issues, which resulted in a discussion document, Quality and Value at University of the Pacific.

Profound Political/Economic Uncertainties

In the face of these conditions, political and economic leadership at all levels - California, national, global - has not yet responded with sufficient decisiveness and effectiveness. The next six to 12 months should clarify this situation. Even so, University of the Pacific faces an environment of profound political and economic uncertainties. In these conditions, the University must craft strategies that accommodate a range of possibilities. Specifically, our strategic thinking and planning must prepare and enable the University to succeed under a wide range of economic conditions:

1) recovery and restored growth and prosperity,

2) continuing economic instability and stagnation, or

3) economic decline, even depression.

Such strategic thinking needs to consider fresh options that enable Pacific to adapt to and thrive in any economic future.

Changing Social and Demographic Conditions

The changing economic and political conditions of the past few years are shaping prospects for the next decade and are reshaping our perspectives on social and demographic factors. The levels of income inequality are likely to continue to increase in the geographical regions from which we draw our students. The University will be seeking able students from a dramatically changing demographic pool - more heavily minority, especially Hispanic, with relatively fewer students who arrive fully prepared to excel at Pacific. Indeed, the University will need to consider how to simultaneously protect its core region and move to attract more able students nationally and internationally. Competition for able students will be increasingly intense from both existing and new competitors.

Moreover, we will have greater access to new populations made possible by greater leveraging of our San Francisco and Sacramento campuses, the possible use of technology blended and online learning, and greater access to international students.

Technology Transforms the Patterns and Cadences of Scholarship, Learning and Work

Over time, information and communications technologies (ICT) have been reshaping the patterns, cadences, and practices of scholarship - discovery, integration, application, and teaching. This has affected virtually all scholars, individually. It has also impacted individual scholars as members of working groups, teams, departments, and disciplines (4). ICT is also being used to reinvent learning experiences, through the redoubtable efforts of groups like the National Center for Academic Transformation, the growth of online and blended learning, and new approaches to K-12 education such as the Khan Academy, which provides free 8-12 minute competency based learning modules in thousands of micro-topics. These transformations in academia are expected to continue and even accelerate, driven by changing expectations of students and the changing needs of the economy.

In society at large, the growth of the Internet has created new ways for individuals to engage one another and vast troves of open-access ("free") knowledge - information contextualized and understood through conversation. These have "flattened" organizational hierarchies, cut across organizational and national boundaries, and expanded the potential capacity of educated individuals to manage and utilize profoundly greater streams of information. New generations of artificial intelligence tools, available and amenable to individual users, are creating a sort of "augmented intelligence" that can magnify the productivity of users and change the very nature of work. Employers are keen that the new graduates of colleges and universities possess both the hard and soft skills to function successfully in these new, technology-rich environments, continuing to learn perpetually. To guide the deliberations of the Strategic Planning Committee, we have assembled a repository of materials on "Emerging Technologies for the 21st Century" (5)

Environmental Awareness and Sustainability Become Core Values

Environmental awareness and sustainability have evolved from the relatively focused concerns of "greens" to a fundamental principle for all individuals and organizations aiming for success in the 21st Century. Sustainability as a guiding concept applies to communities, regions, nations, and enterprises that aspire to be sustainable in all aspects of their activities. Financial sustainability will be a core principle of state and nations for the future. Sustainability on campus is a key element of design, operations, and curricula. Over the strategic planning period, environmental considerations will need to be a fundamental component of the University's strategic thinking. University of the Pacific has particular environmental responsibilities, challenges and opportunities, given the locations of all three of its campuses in settings that face environmental hazards.

Considering New Opportunities

One of the most compelling reasons for a fresh round of strategic thinking is the portfolio of possibilities provided by expanding operations in San Francisco and Sacramento; the opportunities to serve growing number of international students and to enhance the international experiences for Pacific students; and the potential to use online and blended learning to reach new students and to serve existing students in new ways. It is conceivable that a mapping of the University's "footprint" - the distribution of students, by types, by fields of study, and by location - could look very different in ten years in its distribution across communities, programs and even types of learners.

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