Building a World-Class University Requires Global Collaborations
Recently, SSZD reporter Liao Lulei had a special interview with the president of New York Institute of Technology, Dr. Edward Guiliano. He presented his views on questions related to globalization in higher education, building a first-class university, and other subjects. As we have seen, an outstanding university leader must be able to handle all sorts of unexpected situations.
Q: NYIT is a well-known university in the U.S., and is now moving onto the global stage. What do you think contributes to the university's excellence today? How do you define a "world-class" university?
Dr. Guiliano: A world-class university is one that hires top faculty, recruits creative students, prepares them for careers of the future, and encourages research and scholarship that link different disciplines and cross national boundaries. We are focused on that and fund those priority areas. Also, an excellent university embraces the world. NYIT is distinguished in that we are headquartered in one of the world's capitals and are home to students from 109 nations. That is elite. We have the same curriculum and the same high standards at each of our campuses in New York, China, the Middle East, and Canada. Worldwide, we have 89,000 alumni - many of these alumni become valuable contacts for our students' studies, internships, and careers.
Q: Universities now face fierce competition. How does NYIT respond to this? How do you attract and retain talent among students, faculty, and staff in this competitive environment?
Dr. Guiliano: Quality wins in the end. NYIT is committed to being a student-centered university. We strive to deliver career-oriented undergraduate and professional education in a high-quality, caring, and cost-effective way. That is what many students want today. Once we accept qualified students, we assume responsibility for helping them graduate. We offer many services, including 24-hour tutoring, and a special program for first-year students that helps integrate academics, financial literacy, and community service projects into their NYIT experience. Our course offerings reflect our attention to industry trends that will shape future career opportunities for our graduates long after they complete their degrees.
For the NYIT faculty and staff, we are proud that the Chronicle of Higher Education confirmed that we were one of the best colleges to work for in America. This is the second consecutive year that we received that certification. Only 111 of the 5,000 colleges and universities in America have this special distinction. It means many things: that we have a welcoming and fair environment for our employees; that our facilities meet our needs; our campuses are pleasant and secure; our employees are recognized for their contributions; pay and benefits are fair; and that NYIT recognizes innovative and high-quality teaching. So our employees have responded by saying they are satisfied with their job and workplace, and of course, we pay super-premium salaries. All of this helps us attract and retain talent.
Q: You have served as NYIT's president for over 10 years. What do you think makes a good university leader?
Dr. Guiliano: Twelve years actually…but who is counting? Confidence and the ability to deal with ambiguity for sure are characteristics of a good leader, in America at least…and a thick skin can help. Fundamentally, a good leader of a university must be able to hire other good leaders, give them the resources to do their jobs well, and inspire them to support the university's vision and goals. Such a leader must be excellent at various forms of communications, as the president or the CEO of any company in America is said to be 40% of the face of the university. That sounds like too much and is, but it means that the president is the conduit for 40% of the information coming from the university.
Good university leaders reward people for taking risks, serving the institution, and achieving excellence in providing students with quality education. We must always keep in mind that we are preparing future global citizens and human capital for the knowledge economy. Our activities must reflect our shared mission. A good university leader breaks down the barriers between and among different disciplines. We encourage collaboration and communication.
A good university leader is also committed to helping people understand why they do what they do, and how their work contributes to the common goals of the university. We cultivate learning, and we invite others to make important decisions in their areas of expertise. Good leaders work to make things better, to find ways to make improvements as the university evolves, to guide the direction of the institution, and to meet any challenges that are presented. They instill pride and confidence in the university.
University globalization is not limited to establishing global campuses
Q: Globalization in higher education is a hot topic these days, and can be both an opportunity and a challenge. Could you share with us NYIT's experience on preparing global citizens?
Dr. Guiliano: We recognize that education is the currency that crosses borders and oceans and brings solutions to civilization's most complex challenges. We prepare our students to be global citizens by helping them identify problems and devise solutions in real-world situations; giving them an interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach to challenges, and training them to harness technology.
Being global does not only mean having permanent campuses around the globe. NYIT's global approach is reflected in our Center for Global Health sending faculty and medical and engineering students to a health clinic in Ghana. This approach also gives architecture students and faculty the opportunity to travel to Cuba to work on historic preservation projects. It was reflected when NYIT co-hosted a world-class conference on "Thinking Green" in China, or when a dozen Chinese professors visited our campus in New York for a week to experience American education and build bridges and bonds for future collaboration. Our global approach results in Chinese students studying in New York and New York students studying in Nanjing. It means we develop online and distance learning classes that connect students and faculty from multiple global campuses.
We also form partnerships with companies and agencies around the world to give students a chance to work in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. We connect with other disciplines, other countries, other campuses.
At NYIT, we offer one degree and one curriculum. This protects our distinct not-for-profit higher education brand. However, we are always committed to infusing this curriculum with local content and perspectives at our global sites. There is an ongoing exchange of students, faculty, and ideas without borders.
Q: You mentioned the model of "global university," providing one degree in different global locations. Ideally, it is good for quality control. What are the challenges in implementing it? Specifically, how do you ensure that the quality of curriculum at a China campus is the same as in New York? Do you hire local instructors? Are there any other challenges or disadvantages?
Dr. Guiliano: We feel that a truly global university must have campuses and sites in different locations around the world, even as it has a variety of partnerships and collaborations elsewhere. We hire NYIT faculty with American Ph.D.'s and American teaching experience wherever we offer NYIT courses, then we supplement them with top local talent, whether from academia or industry. And we compensate our talent appropriately. Our emphasis on "one curriculum, one degree" means that a bachelor's of science earned outside New York carries the same prestige as a B.S. earned at one of our two campuses in New York. And the degree is issued in New York without any qualifying location conditions. One degree worldwide. This also means students from outside New York can spend a semester or a year at one of the New York campuses, and continue their education seamlessly.
Quality control means "assess, assess, assess"-outcomes assessment. And this is something that we will see more of soon in China. Outcomes assessment is a key to our quality control. A course in Abu Dhabi needs to cover 90% of the material covered in New York, and we need assurance that a grade of B in that course in Abu Dhabi would also earn a B in New York. We measure outcomes, we review faculty performance, and we employ a continuous improvement model to address standards. Naturally, there is a respectful and appropriate dose of "glocalization," which we define as global-mindedness with deference to local customs. I also want to emphasize that any global institution in the next decade will, by virtue of its existence, be a technological entity. Quality control and outcomes assessment, for example, are global challenges.
We can use technology for communications, standardization of coursework, grade consistency, and similar tasks. Our global programs are constantly evolving. Sometimes, education ministries change their requirements, but we must always ensure that our program conforms to accreditation standards in the United States. Different parts of the world have changing needs, so we must be agile enough to adopt and excel. Finally, let me say that, I visit all of our sites around the world each year as do other senior NYIT administrators. I have been to China four times in 2011 and anticipate being there at least four times in 2012, if not more. The four 2012 visits are already booked. Meeting people, listening to them, seeing things, addressing opportunities and challenges first hand is a certainly an important focus when it comes to quality control.
Q: Does this model mean abandoning local roots worldwide? How does NYIT integrate the local culture, characteristics, and thinking into the campus and curriculum, and make this into an advantage?
Dr. Guiliano: While we emphasize American higher education at all of our global campuses, we encourage our students to immerse themselves in local culture while they complete their undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies at any of our global campuses. We offer students small classes, open discussions, and opportunities to gain hands-on skills through internships and volunteer work. These experiences are rooted in local culture. And naturally we "glocalize" our curriculum a bit. When we teach accounting, it is accounting-but with a basis on local accounting practices, for example. People learn about American practices, but they study and apply local practices. And anyone who has attended college knows that students learn a great deal outside the classroom as well as inside. That is why the experience of studying in more than one location is exceedingly valuable.
Q: How do the students and staff across campuses interact effectively, allowing different ideas to flow back and forth?
Dr. Guiliano: Reaching and teaching students effectively is one of the greatest challenges in 21st-century, post-secondary education. Technology is the crucial tool that help makes it happen. It does not replace professors or staff members, but rather supports the work of professors and enhances what they do. With the latest technologies in videoconferencing, Skype, and other tools, the administration in New York, global campus deans, and academic deans are able to meet regularly. Members of NYIT's administration visit the global campuses several times a year for face-to-face interaction, conferences, and special events. Moreover, we bring our administrators from abroad and often our faculty to New York for meetings and conferences and certainly for research and teaching.
An advantage of being in New York is a lot of people pass through and visit. In the past two weeks, we have had hosted five different delegations from China. That's a record for us…and we were delighted by their visits. We hold distance-learning classes among our New York, Middle East, and Chinese campuses. Those grant us the added opportunity to create a space for cross-cultural communications in real-time. Most importantly, students from one NYIT campus have the opportunity to attend NYIT in another country, opening up a whole new venue for learning and growing personally and professionally. Any global university will encounter some logistical and scheduling challenges for "real-time" classes because of time differences, but we work to overcome those. NYIT has also worked hard to blend curricula, cultures, and styles of learning while we follow rules and regulations of partner schools and their governments. Part of what has made NYIT successful is a commitment to communication and working closely with counterparts at our partner schools or in government to ensure things are run smoothly. Our growing alumni network can also assist in how we share and communicate these messages.
Q: Do the global campuses now in operation meet your expectations? What's NYIT's next destination?
Dr. Guiliano: We have been very pleased with our global campuses-and one of the most important signs of their success is the way they are viewed. While other U.S. universities use the word "branch" to refer to their campuses in different countries, we view our global campuses as equals, our students at any location as equals. As with any institution in an expansion mode, we've experienced learning curves in each country where we've established a presence. Demands differ from country to country, and when these changed, we had to change. Employers in Abu Dhabi need skilled workers in business, for example, so this year, we opened graduate management program to complement our undergraduate program, and our M.B.A. program became the first licensed and accredited American program in Abu Dhabi. We have had a national Ministry of Education approved M.B.A. program in China for 12 years. We fly in American professors to teach 75 percent of the courses. And in Nanjing, we emphasize computer sciences, international business, and new media, which are in demand throughout China. A first-class research university should establish close collaborations globally.
Q: How does NYIT encourage research and innovation? Are students involved?
Dr. Guiliano: We are redoubling our efforts to do what we call applied research-in other words, research that has practical uses, and might even change how we live. Our medical school is researching heart and Parkinson's diseases; our engineering faculty researches alternative sources of energy; our education school researches ways to use technology to enhance lessons in elementary and high schools. Just as important, students are a key part of this research-they not only learn at the side of professors and leaders of industry, but they gain valuable skills to take to the job market. And this effort is on a global scale. Students from all of our campuses regularly collaborate on projects and contribute to research. Each year, we hold the NYIT Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE) conference, where students present their research findings and works of creative expression. We invite and bring our students from all over the world to present their achievements.
Q: South University of Science and Technology, in Shenzhen, is new but intends to become a world-class research university. As the head of a renowned research university, your advice would be valuable. What suggestions do you have?
Dr. Guiliano: The first reality is it will take time. People need to think in terms of many years, even decades. The second reality is there are not that many world-class professors or researchers to staff this or the many universities that want to become a world-class research university. Currently, top faculty are scarce and in great demand and command high salaries, far beyond what is customary in China. There is a reason why great universities have great faculty. It will take a decade to possibly develop the faculty to staff the many young universities that aspire to become world-class research universities. Think India, China, and beyond. Faculty are the key, then financial support for innovation follows. One short-cut is to formulate strong ties with industry and other universities, especially globally.
Q: You attended a conference in Shenzhen last year. Could you give some advice to Shenzhen on how higher education contributes to economic development?
Dr. Guiliano: I love Shenzhen. It was my second visit there. What has happened in the five years since my first visit is remarkable. Shenzhen is an exciting place; to me it epitomizes the developments in China since I started visiting 13 years ago. I was impressed by its commitment to the environment and being "green," something close to me and NYIT. I read that about 20 percent of China's Ph.D.'s work in Shenzhen.
That leads to my next point: A growing body of research shows higher education is integral to the economic health of a region because it brings a "creative class." Universities serve as incubators of young talent, ideas, and businesses. And Shenzhen could profit from more local universities.
Creative genius found in cities or regions with research universities leads to new companies, jobs and economic vitality. Innovation and entrepreneurship flourish in these areas.