New State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein visited Kutztown University on Nov. 1.

“He brings enormous enthusiasm to this state system in this very challenging time in our history and his vast experience both in education and the Gates Foundation is bringing many ideas and initiatives to point us to success,” said KU President Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson.

“I’m energized by the kind of leadership that the chancellor promises,” said Sen. Judy Schwank.

“Kutztown is great. People are super engaged… in wanting to create their future,” said Greenstein. “It’s really exciting.”

Greenstein, who became the fifth chancellor on Sept. 4, previously headed the Postsecondary Success strategy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, working with other higher education leaders across the country to raise educational attainment levels and promote economic mobility. He has led several internet-based academic information services in the U.S. and U.K., as well as acted in strategic consulting roles for educational, cultural heritage and information organizations.

During an Open Forum, Greenstein spoke to a room full of students, faculty, staff, trustees, KU Foundation Board members and community, education and business leaders.

“We have an opportunity to reimagine public higher education in this country,” Greenstein said.

The challenge, he said, is to look at how universities can sustainably ensure that all students can affordably get the education they need to participate effectively in a 21st century economy and contribute to their communities.

“We have the passion, we have the grit, we have the determination, we certainly have the sense of urgency to win, which is why I’m excited,” he said.

Greenstein said faculty and student engagement is key to student success.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve watched faculty completely transform their teaching and their research methods in dramatic and very labor intensive ways in the constant search for the best way to inspire students.”

Not wanting to spend much time listing the system’s specific challenges, he summed them up.

“We’re struggling to deliver a quality education to our students using instructional support and business models that have been around since at least the 1950s. We’re focusing on high school graduates and we’re educating them for careers in business, industry, civil, political and learned services. These models have served us and our students exceptionally well for decades but their effectiveness has waned as the composition and needs of our student body, the demands being made on us and on them by their employers and our funding models have all changed.”

Greenstein said this is an opportunity to be innovative in serving new student groups at a time when funding is constrained, as well as space and resources. Their biggest challenge, he believes, is a culture defined by distrust; between union and management, between universities and the system, between trustees and board members, and sometimes between universities and their communities.

“If we’re going to get to a better place for our students and our university and our state, then we’re going to have to stand up together as one body, lock arms, suspend our disbelief in one another, and as one body, say enough,” said Greenstein. “We cannot control the demographic and political and economic trends that are hammering away at this and virtually every other university, but we can control how we behave and interact with one another. We can transform our culture.”

He believes this will create an environment in which inclusive and courageous conversations will chart a new course for higher education.

Earlier, a focus group discussed the real value of the university and how it creates opportunities to develop students to become their best and contribute to their region.

Responding to the reports suggesting the system look into the possible closure of a PASSHE school, he said, “Imagine the impact on the region of a closure, taking an education away… taking that away from the people who need it most. It’s just a bad education public policy. Doesn’t mean we have to do it the same way we’ve always been doing it.”

Looking forward as the new chancellor, Greenstein promised to be transparent and inclusive.

“We need to understand how to work effectively together so that we can strengthen the quality of offerings and their affordability. Make ourselves more available, more affordable to more students,” he said. “Leverage our collective strength, and that’s going to force us to change pretty much everything that we do in order that we can remain the same, which is a profoundly conservative approach to higher education. Transform the way we do business so we can continue to serve our historic mission.”

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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