The University of Redlands has a strong relationship with Esri, the largest Redlands employer. The utility of spatial databases and spatial learning are inculcated in the curriculum and are a significant differentiator within the academic experience for students, not just in the College but in the Schools of Business and Education. How best can you address the commitment to the U of R’s distinction in this area? And what is your own experience in this domain?
This is part of the mega trend in higher education and science toward “big data.” We used to call this domain “systems science” or “complexity.” I am familiar with the importance and broad utilization of geographic information systems in the social sciences and physical sciences since my days at Bryn Mawr College, where I helped support the interdisciplinary programs in GIS and Geoarchaeology. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no expert. But I understand the enormous potential. The fact that this area has found purchase at Redlands in the schools of business and education as well as arts and sciences is of great interest. The word you used was “inculcated”, so the integration of GIS has not been merely opportunistic but has become a signature program. It’s an example of
what I meant before when I talked about investing in selective excellence.
More than anything, I see this as an exemplar of government-university-industry partnerships. These kinds of public/private partnerships are one key to our future in higher education. I have been sensitized to the importance of the industry/university axis during my service on the Government University Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences, in which I am an appointed member. The top-ten societal problems to solve in this century – aging and its impact; data security in a world of cyber terrorism; demand for renewable and sustainable alternative energy; carbon constraints and CO2 capture/management; availability and advanced recovery of fossil fuels; climate change and global warming; global terrorism and homeland security; global food supply; and ocean pollution – are all multidisciplinary and international. By definition, they require partnerships and teams. Perhaps my greatest contribution in the area of big data has been the creation of a successful partnership between IBM, the University of Rochester, and the State of New York to create what will eventually become the nation’s biggest and most powerful high performance computing center focused on life sciences research.
Alliances, like the one with Esri, a world leader in GIS mapping software and data, are to be nurtured and sustained. And if we see the world as externality, rather than from the perspective of our experiential bubble inside the university, we will be part of the solutions to great social problems through education. Surely, there will be other university-industry partnerships for us, if we are open to the possibilities.