I was recently approached by LinkedIn about joining their Influencers Program. My first inclination was to politely decline the invitation. With several hundred (at the time) individuals ranging from President Obama to Meg Whitman to Maria Shriver offering their opinions, expertise and advice around professional and personal advancement, I wasn’t sure what I might add to the discussions.
However, as I looked more closely at the spectrum of Influencers and their posts, I noticed the distinct absence of leaders in higher education among the group. It both surprised and concerned me that the individuals who are responsible for educating students to become the next generation of global and academic leaders are badly underrepresented in these conversations.
So, as of tomorrow morning, I begin my new role as an Influencer and anyone in the LinkedIn community can “follow” me and hear what I have to say about higher education, both in practice today and where I see it moving in the coming 20 to 50 years. I’ll admit that I tread these waters with a bit of trepidation.
We have talked about the critical importance for our university to be agile and strategically opportunistic to become even more pre-eminent, respected, impactful, and visible– even if at times it pushes us into unknown territory. This is one of those cases where I have been offered the opportunity to be a voice for higher education on a platform that is growing rapidly in reach and size. Yes, I expect it will be a little uncomfortable being out there in front. But that is exactly the personal challenge I have put in front of everyone on this campus since I arrived. It is a challenge I have seen you all take up without hesitation. So, looking at it that way, there’s no way I could walk away from this chance.
If you would have asked me about LinkedIn a few years ago, I probably would have been confused. While some of our more innovative faculty, staff, students and alumni may have been utilizing the tool as early adopters, I am a relative newcomer. I don’t know that any of us really have a clear picture of how this tool, like many of the other social media platforms that continue to evolve, might enhance our educational mission. But much like with Coursera last year, it is too big to ignore and we would do so at our own risk.
I’m humbled to be an Influencer, as they are among the thought-leaders in their fields. They are comprised of CEOs, politicians, best-selling authors and award-winning journalists, scientists and entrepreneurs.
I will be posting as a leader in higher education. Currently, the professionals posting about the topic are mostly journalists and business owners. I’m excited to bring a voice of higher education from the front lines, to create a richer discussion. And I believe I will be among the first public research university administrators to take on this role. I hope others will join me.
In my role as an Influencer, I will be blogging about the landscape of higher education to a potential audience of more than 225 million people. And though the posts will have my name on them, I understand that the invitation was extended because I serve as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This platform is a chance to represent this university and to put our name right in the middle of some of the debates that will define the landscape of higher education in decades to come.
Really, the only reason I’m even being asked to step into this role is because of the hard work of the entire Illinois family. Through your tireless work, enthusiasm, success and generosity, Illinois has gained a reputation as a pre-eminent public research university. We are privileged to hold an impressive reputation. When LinkedIn went looking to recruit Influencers in education, they weren’t thinking of Phyllis Wise, they were thinking of Illinois.
So, when my new career as a LinkedIn Influencer launches tomorrow morning, I hope you will “follow” me and join me in what I hope will be a vibrant, innovative discussion around a topic we understand better than anyone in the world.
Around the Campus
Congratulations to Bill Metcalf, professor of molecular and cellular biology, who will be formally invested as the G. William Arends Professor in Cellular and Microbiology on Wednesday, October 9. Endowed chairs and professorships are among our highest academic honors and are certainly among our happiest celebrations as a campus community. Visit the calendar for more details.
Congratulations to the six Illinois faculty members who have been named University Scholars: Scott Ahlgren, mathematics; Elvira de Mejia, food science and human nutrition; Susan A. Martinis, biochemistry; Silvina Montrul, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and linguistics; Kevin T. Pitts, physics; Jay Rosenstein, journalism. The program recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. Read the full story here.