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UVA President Says 'Disruptive' Technology Spurs Higher Education Innovation

October 28, 2014 – Modern technology has the power to enhance innovation in higher education and provide the “building blocks” for the future of universities, the president of the University of Virginia said at Georgetown yesterday.

“In higher education, disruptive technology can lead to marketplace innovation such as MOOCs,” said Teresa Sullivan during yesterday’s Designing the Future(s) of the University speakers series event. “It can lead us as teachers and scholars to refine our methods of pedagogy and scholarship, often in very productive ways, and it can lead us to develop new fields of study such as data science to analyze the massive data sets that are byproducts of advances in technology.”

Georgetown’s Designing the Future(s) initiative engages the university community in exploring challenges facing higher education, treats the sector’s future as a design question and uses dialogue and workshops to look at innovation in teaching and learning.


The initiative’s speakers series kicked off Nov. 20 when Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and Georgetown Provost Robert Groves shared their thoughts on higher education.

Former MIT President Susan Hockfield spoke at the series’ second event on Jan. 30, with former Columbia University Provost Jonathan R. Cole speaking on April 1 and The Minerva Project Founding Dean Stephen Kosslyn serving as the speaker on May 5.

Sullivan, who has led the Virginia university since 2010, guided the school though a strategic planning effort to provide a road map for the institution’s future.

She also developed a new financial model to ensure stability and transparency at that university and spur innovation to meet current challenges facing higher education.

During her address, Sullivan also highlighted the importance of interaction and “direct engagement between students and teachers.”


She suggested that if universities want to prepare for the future, the student-teacher relationship must be the foundation from which to build on, as it is “the basis of all learning.”

“When you put a great student together with a great teacher, you have the nucleus of a remarkably productive human relationship,” Sullivan said. “Today as we think about designing the futures of the university, we should remember the future of the university – this university or any university – begins with that human relationship.”

DeGioia moderated a Q&A session with Sullivan following her remarks.

“This is a moment that is shaped by a number of disruptions, a landscape impacted by digital technologies, new financial pressures [and] an increasingly interconnected world,” said DeGioia during his introductory remarks. “And in the face of these kinds of new pressures how do we continue to deliver the kind of education that has characterized this university community for 225 years?”