Why ReImagine?

By: Eva Badowska, Ph.D.
Dean, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Associate VP, Arts and Sciences

For me, it’s really simple: I started this initiative on reimagining higher education because I believe that higher education transforms lives. It had transformed mine. Higher education gave me freedom (of thought and self-determination), perhaps even freedom of country and belonging. And it gave me fulfillment, as I can devote my life’s work to what is meaningful to me. So, for me, it’s not about change for the sake of change or for the sake of fashion (innovation is fashionable). It is about figuring out what big transformations or small adjustments we need to make so that we can responsively and responsibly serve future generations of students in the context of a fluid, dynamic world of knowledge and work. It’s about making sure that our institutions continue to provide the opportunity of that same freedom and fulfillment to the next generation.

As an immigrant and someone who has lived her entire adult life in an adopted language, I don’t find it particularly difficult to accept that institutional and cultural structures should evolve, even quite radically. If anything, I get impatient when they irrationally fail to adjust to changing circumstances. My favorite sentence is: “I have a dream” (Martin Luther King, Jr.). As an academic dean, I often find myself being called upon to “lead change,” and I equally as often find myself failing (for each success you hear about, you can be sure I failed ten times behind the scenes). I am, therefore, very interested in how change can happen in a complex institution such as “the university.” The university as an institution has a venerable history. As an institution, the university is built to support the highest motives, including the advancement of humanity and the betterment of society. But as any institution, it tends to be slow-moving and bureaucratically entrenched. If my failures have taught me anything, it is that change cannot happen by fiat or by charisma or by pleading, and certainly not by imposition; lasting change typically grows out gradually from a movement that involves the entire community and many small acts. This is what this initiative is about: it is an effort to create a community of change-makers who share the same ethical commitment to the value of education in today’s world. It is nothing more and nothing less than that.