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Professor Jared L. Cohon, President of the Carnegie Mellon University
Improving Quality/Changing Roles: The Case of Carnegie Mellon


In this presentation, I will cover two major themes: the role of strategic planning based on the principle of comparative advantage, in leading and managing a university, especially its undergraduate educational programs; and the changing role of universities, especially with regard to new models and modes for education and regional economic development. Much of what I will say is best understood in the context of Carnegie Mellon University, so I will start with a review of Carnegie Mello’s unique history and position in the world of higher education.

1. An introduction to Carnegie Mellon

A. History

Established in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie as a trade school, Carnegie Mellon's rise to global prominence is unprecedented and unique among universities in the United States. Especially important was the tremendous growth and increase in quality in Carnegie Mellon's research and graduate education during the 1970's and 1980's. This great progress was led by President Richard Cyert, who was a master of strategic planning. During the 1990's great progress was made in improving undergraduate education.

B. Carnegie Mellon Today

  • Colleges, institutes and centers

  • Students, faculty, staff and finances

  • Rankings

  • Carnegie Mellon's cultural characteristics and unique efficiency

    2. Strategic Planning to achieve improvements: The Case of Undergraduate Education

    A. Strategic Planning

  • Comparative Advantage

  • Importance of presidential leadership

  • Planning processes

  • The role of external review groups (accrediting organizations, advisory boards.)

    B. Carnegie Mellon's improvement in undergraduate education.

    The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) recently concluded a study of improvements in undergraduate education at more than 100 American universities. Carnegie Mellon was chosen as one of four institutions which improved most from 1988 to 1998. (A copy of the HERI study is enclosed with this outline.)

    3. New Models and Roles for Universities

    Successful universities must respond to changes in society and to new opportunities. The development of information technology in support of education has created new opportunities and may provide mechanisms for universities to respond to the large and increasing global need for access to higher education. A new pressure on research universities is their role in regional economic development.

    A. Information Technology and Education

    Information Technology, and especially the internet, has developed very rapidly. IT holds great promise for the delivery of education to new audiences and for improving the quality of education to traditional audiences. There has been a wide variety of responses to these opportunities. Carnegie Mellon's will be the focus of my talk.

  • Office of Technology for Education

    IT for on-campus courses

    Adapting courses for remote delivery

    "Andrew Information Space"

  • i Carnegie

    Spinnoff company

    Internet delivery of computer science courses

    B. Universities and Regional Economic Development

    Increasingly, universities are viewed by governments as major economic engines. Not only do we educate the workers and leaders for industry, universities are a major source of the technologies that are essential for competitiveness in today's economy. Carnegie Mellon has participated in some unique efforts to develop the economy in Pittsburgh.

  • The importance of regional clusters for economic development

  • Pittsburgh Digital Greenhouse

  • Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse

    (china.org.cn, July 30, 2002)

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