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April 17, 2012
By John Trent
The third finalist for the presidency of the University of Nevada, Reno, participated in several meetings and forums on Tuesday.
Rachel Toni Algaze Croson, division director of Social and Economic Sciences with the National Science Foundation's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate, took part in eight different gatherings at various locations on campus, including a forum for administrative and academic faculty in the Joe Crowley Student Union's theater.
Croson, who is on a leave absence from the University of Texas at Dallas where she served as professor and director of The Negotiations Center, a joint appointment between the School of Management and the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, said her philosophy on higher education's future could be summarized in a quote from NHL Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
"Wayne Gretzky once said that a great hockey player doesn't skate to where the puck is, he skates to where the puck is going to be," Croson said, adding that in research, in designing curriculum and in training the University's students, it was imperative that Nevada must prepare for "where the future is going to be."
As University president, she said, "I would encourage everyone (at the University) to think about where the puck is going to be, and what investment it would take to get us there."
She used examples such as 3D printing and the "involuntary transparence" of social media to explain how University offerings and areas of expertise could be tailored to meet the future's emerging knowledge and innovation. She said she would emphasize collaboration between disciplines in creating an educated workforce that would benefit Nevada, the nation and the world.
"You need conversation across disciplines, across silos, and I have some experience doing that," citing her work with NSF, which has included the allocation of budgets, crafting responses to inquiries from Congress, and creating proposals for more congressional support for future initiatives.
Croson said she places great value on innovation: "It's a question of how you value innovation ... Have you innovated? I encourage my scientific staff, program officers, administrative and support staff, that, 'Maybe we should be doing things differently.'"
She also said she supports the role of arts and humanities in enriching learning and building "community."
"Anytime there is a public demonstration of excellence, this enriches and unites large audiences,' she said. "These are bonding and community building activities that would not happen otherwise in their absence. (Arts and humanities) help us to understand ourselves and understand our world in a different way than science."
Croson, whose background is as a professor of economics, and in particular as an expert in negotiation, said she was a firm believer in higher education finding new ways of making learning meaningful.
She said that "in-person" education has an inherent advantage over online or virtual educational experiences.
"I'm a huge fan, and have spent a large part of my career, in designing courses and curriculum around experiential learning," she said, noting that students in her negotiations classes, for example, had numerous interactions, both in and out of the classroom. "These kinds of experiences, teamwork, group projects, are not something that you can get out of online education."
She said that by making learning experiential, faculty benefit as well.
"Our faculty has that knowledge, and is making the discoveries, that will become the curriculum," she said.
Now that all three finalists have visited campus, the following search-related meetings will be held: