President Hammond declares FHSU ready for 'Convergence' of new technology with old teaching model

HAYS, KS -- Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, unveiled "Convergence" as the theme for the 2000-2001 academic year during his annual State of the Campus address to faculty this morning.

The president's speech was the centerpiece of the annual General Meeting for Faculty and Administration, which also included welcoming remarks from Dr. Arthur L. Morin, president of the Faculty Senate, introduction of new faculty by the FHSU provost, Dr. Larry Gould, and the announcement of winners of three prestigious faculty awards.

Dr. Ruth Firestone, professor of modern languages and chair of the Department of Modern Languages, was named the President's Distinguished Scholar for 2000-2001. Dr. Gavin Buffington, assistant professor of physics, received the Teacher/Scholar/Innovator of the Year award. Sharon Barton, associate professor of teacher education, was recognized as the Faculty Advisor of the Year.

Comparing the emerging technology of the present era to the "iron tentacles" of the railroad that transformed life in the 19th century, President Hammond said, "We are witnessing another convergence and perhaps an equally harsh interaction between the age-old localized human activity of teaching and learning and a radically new delivery system for instruction: the technology-driven Internet."

He offered a definition: "Convergence is the very act or condition of coming together, of formulating similarities in unrelated systems or organizations. As e-education lowers the barriers that have traditionally separated faculty member from faculty member, department from department, institution from institution, the new convergence will make it easier to link those together."

"It is quite clear that we are at a critical point in the convergence of these new relationships," he added. "As we enter a digital age, we will find that our concepts of both campus and its infrastructure must be radically altered. Boundaries and the physical artifacts we associate with them are dissolving. There is no question that teaching and learning as we know it will still be heavily influenced by our traditional institutions, but these colleges and universities will no longer dominate the landscape, and they will be seriously challenged by a sharply reduced number of enlarged competitors. The ubiquity of digital technologies, the emergence of new institutional players, the altered expectations of the workforce, and the changes in the student market place will all be catalyst for this convergence. The sixty-four thousand dollar question, or in current jargon, the million dollar question, is how institutions of post secondary education will evolve."

President Hammond declared Fort Hays State University ready to answer that question. "As the tentacles of change embrace Fort Hays State University, I am proud to report, 'We are ready.' We are ready because of the commitment and flexibility of our faculty and staff. We are ready because of the investments we have made in technology. We are ready because of the partners with whom we have aligned. As we embark on a new semester our future is bright."

The president pointed to several steps the university has taken to thrive in this era of convergence:

* Agreements with Nex-Tech and Sykes to provide computing and Internet services to FHSU students. "Sykes is also working with us to make new computing personally available to faculty and staff and on a new 24/7 (24 hours a day/seven days a week) response system for the Virtual college students," President Hammond announced.
* The FHSU Virtual College, which is built on the strength of core faculty. "This new unit continues to grow from 3,094 students in FY98 to 3,684 students in FY2000," he said. "At the same time we increased the total resources paid faculty to teach in the Virtual College. In FY98 we spent $247,152 on virtual faculty salaries. Last year we spent $581,058."
* The proposed affiliation between FHSH and Pratt Community College. "By every demographic measure, post secondary education is destined to be one of the fastest growing industries in the first decade of the 21st century," he said. "Currently there are 3,700 institutions in the United States enrolling over 14 million undergraduate students. The number of institutions will continue to decline with the increasing numbers of mergers and affiliations."
* The relationship with SIAS University in Mainland China and FHSU's expanded role in providing post secondary education to military servicemen and women at Fort Riley and at other military installations.
* New partnerships with Net G and Quisic. "Collaboration with scholars across the ocean is something most of our faculty and students take for granted today," he said. "There are few barriers to working with colleagues anywhere on the globe."

In his welcoming remarks to the faculty, Professor Morin talked about fundamental purposes. "Each facet of the university brings a particular expertise to bear on a specific concern," he said. "Ideally, all facets of the university fit together to provide a multiplicity of opportunities to students, alumni, community members, staff, and faculty. The combination of these opportunities creates a wholeness of experience that transcends each part of the combination. ... What is the nature of these opportunities?

The university as a place affords us an opportunity to locate and orient ourselves in the larger picture of life."

Professor Morin listed the consequences of higher education: "First, to discover that learning is a joy in itself. The second consequence we hope for is that we see and feel more deeply than before. Third, to know that each situation can be understood in a variety of ways, to know that we are not tethered to a particular intellectual or philosophical point of view. In other words, we achieve a healthy intellectual freedom. Fourth, and following naturally from all we have thus far mentioned: that we have the capacity to exercise good judgment, and that we in fact do judge well. Fifth, that we use our knowledge, skills, and talents for the benefit of others and for our own welfare."

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