Almost daily you can log on or pick up a newspaper and read about the changing dynamics of higher education and the perceived lack of importance of the on-campus experience. While I see the value of online education and can appreciate the convenience of MOOCs, I tend to agree with Chronicle of Higher Education’s Jeff Selingo, a prolific writer and commentator on the future of higher education. In a recent article, “Why the College Campus Experience Still Matters,” Selingo suggested that there would always be a place for the residential campus experience. I couldn’t agree more.
This really hit home for me a few weeks ago, as I bounced from one activity to another on a snowy Saturday (imagine that). My day began with welcoming more three-hundred prospective students and their family members and guests at Preview Day. Meeting these students and listening to their questions was, as always, energizing and exciting. Their hunger for education and the life experience they are about to embark upon is refreshing.
From Preview Day I jumped over to McCardle Theater to check in on TEDx Houghton, Michigan Tech’s first Ted Talks event. If you’re like me you’ve probably seen or listened to quite a few Ted Talks. How cool is that we were able to establish our own? Ideas shared over the course of some twenty different presentations ranged from happiness and wave particle duality, making waves in a kiddie pool, freeing energy from the grid, and the power of non-conformity. If tickets sales were an indicator of success, this one was a hit—the 100 available tickets sold out in five minutes.
Later that evening my wife and I attended Keweenaw Pride’s Drag Show, which culminated annual Pride Week activities at Tech. Nearly every seat in the Rozsa was filled as spectators watched the queens perform routines that were flamboyant, amusing, and—perhaps to some—outlandish. I’m not sure where they shop, but I’m guessing most of their outfits didn’t come from anyplace near Houghton.
These are just a sampling of the events that occurred on campus one Saturday. That same day you could have also participated in STANDATHON (an event to raise money for Bay Cliff Lodge), attended African Night, or gone geocaching with the Outdoor Adventure Program. This is typical for a Saturday at Tech, and there is so much more that makes the Tech experience what we all know and love.
Talk to anyone and they will confide that Tech is about the experience and it’s the people that make the experience. The onslaught of online options is out there, but nothing will replace what you get from being here.
An article titled “The Limits of the Virtual: Why Stores and Conferences Won’t Go Away” might have stated it best: “There is nothing as compelling as direct human interaction. It strengthens trust, creates serendipity, and fosters community in an irreplaceable way.”