UW Today

October 18, 2012

President Young launches new initiative to lead change in higher education and address major societal issues

News and Information

University of Washington President Michael K. Young today announced a new initiative aimed at advancing the university’s teaching, research and service to meet the major challenges of the 21st century. The initiative, called “Tomorrow’s University Today,” will focus on three key areas: leading change in public higher education, addressing critical societal problems like sustainability, health care and K-12 education, and spurring economic growth.

“The university of tomorrow is moving toward a new paradigm — certainly one of greater efficiency, but also one where innovation and technology combine with hands-on, collaborative learning to give our increasingly diverse student body an enhanced experience and to dramatically expand the breadth and reach of our research,” said Young. “Tomorrow’s university faces a world that is getting smaller and more hyper-connected. That means the great societal challenges we face require equally connected, integrative solutions. The UW is uniquely poised to bring the assets of the university to the community to make a real and lasting difference in the world. And most importantly, we can’t wait for tomorrow to arrive. We have to take on these challenges today.”

To better serve today’s new generation of students, the UW wants to be a leader of change in public higher education by determining how to use technology so that education isn’t just cheaper and faster, but better, transformative and more effective. Through “Tomorrow’s University Today,” the UW will both modernize higher education and make learning more accessible, more connected and more personal. As well, the UW is exploring flexible and affordable ways to ensure that an increasingly diverse group of citizens can get access to a UW education through opportunities like online learning.

A second focus area of “Tomorrow’s University Today” requires a broad spectrum approach to addressing some of society’s most pressing challenges: sustainability, health care and K-12 education reform. President Young sees an opportunity to “turn the University inside-out”— taking ideas and research and innovations out of the lab, classroom and office and into the community, whether it’s across the street or across the globe — by pairing the UW’s historical strengths in multi-disciplinary problem-solving research to addressing the major societal and social justice issues. As the state’s flagship research university, the UW is pledging to marshal the interdisciplinary strengths of the academy to work on promising new solutions to these critical societal problems whether through education, research, or new products, processes or medicines.

The third area of focus of “Tomorrow’s University Today” addresses the critical need of driving Washington state’s economic future. Already, the UW has created new opportunities for entrepreneurship by stimulating public/private partnerships, creating on-campus incubator space for new companies, more effectively using UW students, and participating in a university venture fund — the W Fund — to propel ideas out of labs and into the economy where they will create jobs and improve lives. Over the next few years, the University plans to double the number of new companies spun out by the UW.

“Throughout our 150-plus year history, the UW has embraced both its responsibility and opportunity as a public university to serve the state as a research engine to enhance business and create livable communities, and as an innovator in education. Working to discover solutions to our most complex problems is our passion and our mission,” Young said. “It isn’t enough to simply be responsive to change – we need to lead that change. In short, we need to become ‘Tomorrow’s University Today.’ This will obviously be a long-term, interactive, and very collaborative process, and one that I’m extremely excited to lead.”

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For more on “Tomorrow’s University Today” visit www.tomorrow.uw.edu.