UMW:UVA :: Faculty Academy:Katie Couric

Faculty Academy, for those who did not take the time to go, was really exceptional this year. It’s grown so much more open and interesting in its development over the past decade, and the DTLT crew deserve so much credit. For two days, i was immersed in a group of people who are undaunted by doing things in a new way. There were no claims of “but you can’t do that in higher education.” The feeling is that everything is on the table, up for grabs, and everyone has a creative voice in the process. They even let me lead a couple of discussions, which shows how fast and loose they are playing it 🙂

The relative dearth of technology resources at UMW, compared with larger research institutions, is a double-edged sword. At a larger research institution with decentralized technology budgets and infrastructures, UMW would not have had to come up with UMW Blogs on a “sandbox” outsourced host. We would not have to develop an interactive map and mobile web presence using low-cost and free open source tools — we could have simply bought all of that, along with the vendor lockin that comes along with it.

This never-say-die attitude about the democratic nature of technology, the web, and now the physical world and “maker” culture, is at the heart of what it means to be at UMW. I left those two days reeling with ideas about how to do more with less, and how to help others do the same.

But the ultimate clash of cultures for me was my subsequent attendance at UVa’s final exercises on Sunday. It was not actual attendance because the crowd was so big I could not get a seat, and I saw it live streaming from a ballroom (when my kids were not dragging me to some open space to play lacrosse). Their speaker was Katie Couric, a UVa graduate. Her speech was not only sophomoric (talking about getting drunk as an undergrad and forgetting the tailgating parties, yuk, yuk), it was self-referential to the point of embarrassment. Katie, apparently, was a Delta Delta Delta, which I thought was Revenge of the Nerds, until I remembered that it was Lambda Lambda Lambda. The Deltas were in Animal House. UVa can afford a visit by a national TV celebrity reliving her sorority days with her fellow Delta Delta Delta sisters!

UMW, on the other hand, is not so fortunate. Not only does it eschew the “greek life,” but has to settle for speeches by non-tv-celebrity-visionaries like Guilia Forsythe, Grant Potter, and David Darts. I give you the following comparison, and leave you to parse the qualitative difference between the great minds and the great budgets: