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ASU and its President are both harbingers of change in higher education

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An audience of alumni, boosters, faculty, staff, and community leaders crowded into the Paul V Galvin Playhouse in Tempe on January 29, 2014, to participate in an ASU: Community Changemaker event. During the past decade, no one in Phoenix has epitomized change more than the charismatic master of ceremonies for the evening—Dr. Michael Crow.

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The former Executive Vice Provost of Columbia University in New York City was controversial from his start as the 16th President of Arizona State University (ASU), when he arrived in 2002 and labeled ASU a “third tier” university. He was one of several brash, young presidents taking over major universities throughout the country, a new generation of scholars with dramatic visions of how higher education needs to adapt to a rapidly changing, global environment. Crow’s vision is the “New American University,” an institution that excels at academics, inclusiveness, and societal impact.

The Changemaker session, which was webcast live, was a testament to the transformation of a school, which, though it had sound programs, like communications and business, was viewed nationwide as a “party school” into a booming (76,000+ students) hub of innovative schools, centers and projects. Since 2002:

o ASU has expanded geographically (e.g. 10,000 students in downtown Phoenix, new ASU campus at Lake Havasu City),

o ASU is expanding its socio-economic-cultural outreach (e.g., ASU alumni law firm, the new ASU Center for Law & Society, ASU College of Public Programs),

o ASU has become the fifth most-sought-after college by employers (1500 employers recruit annually)

Crow spoke about the changes in society that are driving the need for academic change in Arizona. These include changes in technology, individuals becoming more entrepreneurial, economic challenges (e.g., 75% of undergrads need financial aid), and global diversity (e.g., ASU hosts 1500 students from China). Crow described ASU’s goal to promote deeper learning, faster learning and broader learning.

All the attendees received a jar of ASU-produced honey. Crow was at his professorial best when the former professor of science and technology policy showed slides of the Evolution of Complex Social Behavior--ASU’s latest bee research project. The PowerPoint of honeybees busily tending their hive could have been symbolic of the bustling activity at ASU’s expanding campus. It’s hard to imagine all the changes that could occur in the next decade, with an enrollment over 100,000.