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Episode 58

transformed: How Ai Will Catalyze Higher Ed Reform

Joe Gottlieb:

Welcome to TRANSFORMED a higher digital podcast focused on the new why’s, the new what’s, and the new how’s in higher ed. In each episode, you’ll experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed, while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence. Culture, strategy and tactics, planning and execution, people, process, and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform.

Joe Gottlieb:

Hello, welcome and thanks for joining us for this special presidential series episode of TRANSFORMED. My name is Joe Gottlieb, president and CTO of Higher Digital, and today I’m joined by Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, president of Cal State University, Fresno. Saúl, welcome to TRANSFORMED.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Thanks so much for having me, Joe. It’s very happy to be here. And what do you wanna talk about?

Joe Gottlieb:

I’m glad you asked Saúl. I wanna talk about your thoughts on how AI is going to catalyze higher ed reform. But before we get into that, first, tell me a little bit about your personal journey and how it has shaped the work that you do and the passion that you have for higher ed.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Sure. I came from Mexico to the Fresno region when I was 10. I grew up in a farm, which taught me tremendously the power and the value of work. And that’s physical work, <laugh>, unlike the, the work that I do now. And I also grew up here, went away to college and went away to college because I’m the eighth child of eight, and I just needed to be on my own. I have five sisters and two brothers, and that gives me the ability to really deal with very different personalities within the, the, the mission that I have at Fresno State. And then I came back. I was a professor of Spanish and Portuguese poetry for about 15 years. I became the Dean of Arts and Humanities. I became the provost, and then I became the president all at the same institution where I grew up. So you can see in a nutshell, you know, that I am deeply invested in this community and in the work that I do here.

Joe Gottlieb:

Fantastic. Okay. Well, given that background it’s gonna be really, really fun to talk about what you’re doing there in Fresno, in the area across the community, but in particular at this institution. But before we dive into that, you know, if we’re gonna talk about how AI might catalyze higher ed reform, let’s review some of the drivers for higher ed reform in the first place. What are the top drivers in your mind?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So, the top drivers in my mind, I need to, you know, right off the bat, say the value of higher ed. I think higher ed has been on the attack recently, people saying that you don’t need a college degree. I think it’s undermined a lot by these individuals who say that the college degree does not shape individuals, does not shape leaders. The value of a college degree rests primarily in my mind on two basic pillars. One pillar is knowledge. We provide knowledge to the student. But the other pillar is the experience, the critical thinking that forges that individual in collaborating with others in getting to know herself himself, and then projecting that onto their space in society. So that’s fundamental. My point of departure for everything is that value. And that value, of course is is double like I just mentioned right now.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

The other part, of course, is, you know, where are we going with our teaching and learning methods? Where are we going in terms of retention of our students, in terms, in terms of recruitment, in terms of completion? And then after that, how are students doing in the workforce? What skills and tools do they bring so that they can say to themselves, I am entering a entry level position, but I have the tools necessary, the critical thinking skills necessary to envision myself two years down the road, elevating into the company and giving more of myself in terms of leadership. So that’s really, really, really important. And then of course, the other part that brings to mind is I am an H S I, Hispanic serving Institution, and also Anna a pc. So I am both Asian American Pacific Islander native American institution, as well as Hispanic serving institution. It’s that sense of belonging that, that harboring of the self, that belonging comes in my mind from, again, two pillars. One is the knowledge that our professors in part two students in the classroom. The other one is the events. It’s the clubs, the organizations. It’s going to a football game. It’s cheering for your team. It’s going through situations together that force you as an individual and as a leader as well.

Joe Gottlieb:

So it sounds like you have a a, a a very multifaceted view on this concept of reform that I e willing to acknowledge. There are, there are some standards we should step up to, but it sounds still very optimistic about the role that higher ed can play in individuals’ lives going forward. And, and I’m wondering if, you know, you see it any differently about what the United States is wrestling with in, in, in a, in an industry sense in higher ed versus other nations? So

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

I have, I have, I have studied in other, at other, I studied in Spain, I was also in Portugal. I did some studies in France. And from what I see of the European model, which is also somewhat reflective of the Asian model as well, and these are the two models that I know. I also know the Latin American model because that’s my field. What you see is a very top down approach in which the professor is at the head of the classroom. The professor is the ultimate authority. And then what happens after that? The student receives this information that is very prescriptive in the American system. We need to reclaim the power that we have in general education. The rest of the world does not have general education. The rest of the world focuses primarily on the one discipline or the one career that that person is going to pursue.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

If they’re, if they’re going to be an accountancy, they heavy, heavy, heavy accountancy classes in that. So they do not take Shakespeare, or they do not take anthropology or sociology or education and all of these other, you know, general education courses that provide the student with a holistic approach to what the world is all about and humanity is all about as well. So within this context, then we, American institutions, we have to take ownership of the power that is inherent in general education. And then within this, then we have to then focus on how it is that we, we are at the forefront of shaping, forging our leaders of tomorrow in an individualistic sense. We respect our students within our institutions, our students with ai, of course, I’m gonna talk more about that as well, are going to be at the foreground of actually being architects of their own education as well.

Joe Gottlieb:

Okay. So I love that nuance you’ve just set up. So to, to, to sort of summarize outside the US you see from the, in the systems that you’ve, you’ve been involved with or have experience with, you see a, a more specialized, more targeted education in the us We’ve had the wonderful, but it’s

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Innovation, but it’s hierarchical Joe as well.

Joe Gottlieb:

Hierarchal

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Hierarchical,

Joe Gottlieb:

Both. Both agreed. In the US we’ve had the great gift of, of a, of a, of a general ed. Yes. But it needs to evolve. I think that’s right. Is your ultimate point. And we’re gonna get into that for sure. So with that in mind, let’s set up this basic argument. And it’s a, it’s a profound idea. It’s intentionally provocative. But this, this notion that, that AI could very well be the critical catalyst needed to reform higher ed, because how it sets up a new contract, a new, a new playground for what you’re talking about, I believe, in terms of students relating to their educational experience. So let’s set that up.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So, so let’s, let’s start off with, with the power of the United States, right? I am an immigrant to this country. Like I said before, I came here when I was 10 other countries of the world. What I have experienced, and again, not all the countries are going to be like this, but this is what I’ve experienced. They have a very powerful sense of the norm or the community around them. When I first came to the United States, the first thing that shocked me was that we were at the dinner table and we were invited, and I had a personal place, mat, <laugh> <laugh>, right? I did not have, you know what, traditionally in the other countries of the world, we would not have a personal place mat, right? It it, and, and that shocked me because I thought, wait, this is my very own personal placement.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

I’m not sharing it with anybody else. Whereas you, you go to other countries and you don’t have personal placements for the most part. So that’s the incredible power that the US has in my mind. It’s a power that we have because we harbor, we mine, we go, we delve into the strengths, the creativity that is unique to each individual. Hmm. And I wanna talk about the individual because that it’s so powerful in ai. Hmm. AI can give us the leverage point in which an individual can go through a process of learning and of mining information, researching information that at the end will allow them to say, this is where I stand with a proper direction. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, they cannot do it on their own. So the challenge that I see right now is that the four year degree that we have at our institutions, we must flip it on its head in the sense that we must see our students as carriers of inherent powerful knowledge that they bring to the table.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

My institution is 85% non-white. And within that, I am perceiving my students from the Latin, the Latino context, Latinx context, the Asian American context from the Sikh context, you know, other context, right? Anglo context as bringing into the table these inherent personal knowledges from their culture that give them the strength that they need in order to interpret the world. Hmm. Right? So within this, then what is necessary to do is perceive AI not as a threat, perceive ai, not as the tool that is going to be destructive for us, and we have to police left and right, because that’s what I think that has been the, been the point of departure. You know, so far we’re gonna figure out, you know, who’s using ai, and then we’re gonna just like hammer down and, and, and, you know, be very like like at the police state, essentially, right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

In my mind, the ship sailed a long time ago mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, and, and I go back right to the history of the history of, of knowledge. There was a jump in which we, we as humans said, we are no longer going to do oral histories to pass down knowledge from one generation to the next. We are not going to any longer going to do pictoral images to pass down knowledge we are going to write. Right? That’s a huge jump. That’s technology right there. That’s AI at its adult, at its inception, at its best. Right? Or we go back to Wikipedia. When Wikipedia first came out, we vilified Wikipedia left and right. And now Wikipedia has become this instrument, this powerful instrument that is able to provide us the basics from which we built a foundation for a theoretical postulation of the reality of the world.

Joe Gottlieb:

So if, if I’m to, you know, so that would make, that makes me think about is in the limit, AI is going to really accelerate and, and really be a quantum leap forward in terms of making all that can be known even more readily available. Yes. Across a number of circumstances. You know, arguably an infinite number of circumstances or never infinite, right. Which, which then shifts the burden of education, right? From the dispensary of knowledge, right. The role of dispensing knowledge. Yes. Yes.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Because

Joe Gottlieb:

That’s been done, right? Yes. And we know how to feed the, the engines of ai now the, the repositories of knowledge, and it shifts it to something else. It shifts it. And I’m gonna let you pick it up from there. So let’s now talk about how we’re shifting. We’re gonna get to example here in a moment, but in general, right? We’re shifting from dispensing knowledge to the, the ca the, the, the catalyzation right? Catalyzing of independent thought.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So let, let’s, let’s, let’s go back to our undergraduate years, right? Yeah. I’m gonna go back to my undergrad years. I was, I changed majors from biology into history and Spanish. And in my field of the humanities, I was taught over and over and over and over how to research appropriately, right? How to come up with the perspective of a poem or the perspective of a literary piece of work that has been consequential in the history of humanity. And in that I was being trained to learn about these different perspectives. And then based on these perspectives, I was going to give my own personal academic interpretation of this piece of work, right? That’s essentially the history of humanity and the humanities, right? In the humanities, right? Essentially, we teach students how to research so that they can come up with their own perspective on a specific piece of work that is before them, essentially.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

That’s what it is, right? Yep. And the professor then would grade based on how, how well you research the sources, that was like 60% of everything was right there, right? Because without the right sources, you could not come up with an intelligent postulation of what you are going to say about this piece of work. So if, if it’s 60% of my time, and I remember being at Cornell at this program and doing research on octavio pals on an article that I later published. I spent like hours and hours and hours at the library going for the article, taking out the books, photocopying the books. I mean, it was like laborious. Yes. That’s gone, Joe. It’s all gone.

Joe Gottlieb:

It’s all gone.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

It’s liberating, right? It’s completely liberating. So in this case, we are assuming that that 60% of the tough work that happened in researching is gone. What did we do? Then? We maximize that time with critical thinking skills. We maximize that time with storytelling. Literally storytelling.

Joe Gottlieb:

And if I, and, and, and so we can focus on synthesizing, coming up with our own view. So would you agree then that AI is going to democratize that effort that you endured because you were motivated to achieve an outcome, but with ai, and this being sort of made so much easier and so much more, let’s call it convenient. So two things happened there, right? It’s easier for many more people to perhaps take advantage of. Yes. But it misses the op now lacks the opportunity for that to be part of the journey to that, to be part of getting vested in an outcome. So we have to think about that perhaps. And that’s perhaps where good teaching and learning comes into play, sort of stimulating coaching, challenging, provoking, right? Yes. But it certainly creates an opportunity where more people can cover more ground in terms of access to information and then focus in on what can go on in your independent view. That, that’s your point, I think. Right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. Yeah. My point is that we, the American institution, we have to see this as the opportunity of a lifetime, the opportunity of a lifetime. 10 years from now, we will see the results of what we are building right now in students. This is my vision, right? In students who are able to access information appropriately, ethically, and who are able then to say, based on this information, based on my own personal cultural lived experience, I am going to therefore present the following to you.

Joe Gottlieb:

Yes.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

And what we in the, in, in the academy have to do is we have to reform our processes. We have to reform our approaches to ontology, to epistemology, right? We have to, we have to, we have to say we are no longer going to be the authoritarian gatekeepers because even we in the US are the central figure points in a classroom that are the maximum authority that says, you are great at this. You are not great at that. Yes. Even within our general education, we do that. So in this case, we have to see ourselves as facilitators, correct. As guides. Because what we are doing is we are forging, again, I go back to this very important point for me, we are forging the individual who is going to come up with original ideas.

Joe Gottlieb:

Yes. And, and, and with that shift, there’s effort in terms of shifting curricula and, and the way we think about programs. But there’s also an evolved role to play. Not all professors will fit easily into this new role. No. And arguably, even 30 years ago, or whenever you were doing this, right, you had, you had some great professors that were, that were already doing it, that were already helping you to focus on what flies beyond the 60%,

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right? Yes. Right.

Joe Gottlieb:

And and they were the strongest. That’s right. And from an ego standpoint, it takes, that’s it, it takes strength of ego, right? And to be able to accept the role of coach facilitator as opposed to dictator’s, authoritarian dispenser of knowledge. Right? That’s

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Exactly it.

Joe Gottlieb:

That is <crosstalk>. So there’s a, there, right now, let’s, let’s talk about an example. I I want, we have a great example. I think that in the, in the very non-technical field of English. Let’s talk about, let’s talk about that.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So let, let’s, let’s talk about how, let’s go with, with Shakespeare, right? Yeah. And let’s go with Shakespeare’s sonnet number 18, right? So, you know, it’s about love and it’s about seeing someone in a summer day, and it’s about being just so in the moment connected with this individual, with their emotions, with their psyche, with their body, and with everything else that this person represents. You know, why has this sonnet like withstood the passing of centuries? Hmm. ’cause It still speaks to us in a really profound, deep way, right? It still resonates with us in a, in a pretty critical way. So before, what we would have is we would have the professor who would tell the class, okay, class, here’s Shakespeare’s Saana number 18 give it, give me back, you know the essay by Monday. And then I will, I will grade you.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right? And it was prescriptive because what the professor wanted was an essay with an introduction most of the time, three paragraphs with their initial sentences, development with a little bit of examples, and then conclusions in each of the paragraphs. And then at the end, an overall conclusion to wrap it all up, right? That is abstract to our students nowadays. And it was abstract to me back then as well, to be honest with you. Now, at Fresno State, what we are saying to our students is the following, this is an essay by Shakespeare. I want you to write your reflection on it. I want you to research it. I want you to know what has been said on it. Use AI for that. I want you then to give me, and to be aware that every sentence you write, it’s your D n a, because nobody is going to use the same syntax.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Nobody’s going to use the same vocabulary that you are using. So we are, we are harnessing the power of AI in terms of what has been said. How can we contextualize this on a number 18? Why is Shakespeare talking about a summer day? Why is summer so important in England for that matter? Mm-Hmm. Right? Some, you know, one of my students read it and said, well, what’s the big deal? It’s summer <laugh>. It’s a huge deal, right? Yes. AI’s gonna be able to tell you, right? Within these articles that sunshine in England, it’s the biggest deal ever <laugh>, right? So within that, then what we are doing with our students is we are telling them that every time they write, they are writing themselves in the moment, in an interpretation of the world that gives ’em the right to then say, I’m going to do this. This is who I am. They’re forging their own identity. So, whereas before it was this, you know, mechanical almost assignment. Now it’s a journey of exploring yourself, a journey of becoming yourself with the proper information that is gonna give you that, that AI is, is able to provide to you. Yeah.

Joe Gottlieb:

It’s so different and exciting. And I, you can feel it in your voice. This is already happening, and it’s, and that’s yeah. That’s really powerful. And, and there’ll be need for leadership along the way because this won’t, this won’t be obvious to many.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

No. no.

Joe Gottlieb:

And like I said, it takes some courage, right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. It does take some courage, and it also takes some courage to take on the challenge of what is writing Hmm. <Laugh>, right? So, so am I the type of professor who will say, give me an essay and I will only accept essays from you, by the way. Or can I get a video from you? Right. Right. Can you give me a five minute video that illustrates what this is about? Can you give me a comic book impression Yes. Of the sonnet? Can you do a series of Instagram posts that illustrate the power of this?

Joe Gottlieb:

Just thinking about this, it brings to mind, I’m almost like seeing a movie plot play out where we’ve seen it before, <laugh> where a student that really has a deep, deep experience and reaction and shares something beautiful, but because they don’t fit the, the essay form or misspell many words Yes. They’re, they get a terrible grade. And that professor missed the point, right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Yes. Entirely. Yes. And, and what we’re talking about Joe here is it’s, it’s the love and this is a bad love, right? The love for the form must reproduce the form at all costs. You shall you shall not go beyond the form versus the journey of identity. The journey of becoming, the journey of personalizing that powerful text and saying, this is mine. Yes. And I give it back to you in this beautiful illustration or in this beautiful Instagram postings that are going to resonate in today’s world in a pretty powerful way.

Joe Gottlieb:

Okay. You mentioned Instagram. I was gonna maybe hold back, but I was gonna say that the social media tools of today have been adopted by this generation. That is, that is like every generation Yes. Hungry, hungry to learn, hungry to grow. And, and our ability to leverage the best bits of that training, that social media tooling training is a great opportunity, right? It, it, it, it rep because on good days, there are bad days for sure. There are bad communications, there are bad social interactions, but on good days, our, this generation is communicating more than prior generations. There are more active in groups exchanging views. Right? And again, they’re good and bad. There’s, there’s situations where people aren’t secure and insecure, but perhaps as stewards of this kind of growth coming from higher ed, we can help more good days happen using this tooling, right. And things that will emerge from it. Right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

But, but the critical point goes back to the professor being a coach, a guide in all of this that will give our students the power to number one, research, number two, produce, and number three, discern.

Joe Gottlieb:

Yes.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

And, and that’s, that’s identity in its at its core, right?

Joe Gottlieb:

I, I totally agree. And I love the emphasis on being proactive, learn what others have said that you might consider as inputs or triggers for your unique view. Right? And it’s like, it’s like reading cliff notes after reading a, a, a, a novel, right? It’s like, okay. Right. you could view that as cheating a summary, or you could view it as, Hey, I overlooked something. Someone that has, you know, very vested in this text, you know, shared a few things. Wow. I just got three more ideas about my reaction to this piece of literature that I struggled with. That’s exactly right. By reading the cliff notes. So if think of the AI is sort of cliff notes on steroids for the universe of knowledge, right? It’s like, right, right, right. Okay. It’s out there. So challenging people to do a little more homework. Right? It’s find out what others have said to inform your own view. But most importantly, I’m looking for your, your view to your point.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

And you know, what’s so important to me about knowledge is that we are all invested in our fields of knowledge, whatever it might be, because there is a personal, a very personal, you know, like something inside of you hunger mm-hmm. That wants to know more about that field of knowledge. No one goes into their field of knowledge just because, I mean, some do because their parents sell ’em to do. Right? That’s, that’s, that’s some of our students. Right. But the majority of our students will say, and this was me, right? I started with biology because I thought I wanted to go there. My parents encouraged me to go there, but along the line came Spanish literature and history, and I fell in love with what I was seeing in on the page. So what we need to do is we need to harbor, we need to really generate, harvest that personal attachment, that personal interest that our students have in the field of knowledge. And then say, you are becoming the best version of yourself by researching, by learning, by interpreting, and then by contributing to this field of knowledge,

Joe Gottlieb:

Might I add that part of the opportunity and perhaps the responsibility of these, these, these new era coaches, professors is to, is to help each individual develop their personal confidence in who, in, in and how they relate who they are. Who they are innately. Right? Right. And whether it’s Don Miguel Ruiz with the Four Agreements, or even Rick Rubin with the Creative Way, right? Those are, those are about ignoring some of society’s preconceptions and expectations, and instead letting the you be. And sometimes people need confidence. They need to be, they need to be help to, to accept that, to capture that, to come back to that, right. Really

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Completely. Yeah. Sooner or later, I think, you know, when, when knowledge becomes part of your mental d n a, that’s the point in which it has fused with you in such a profound way that it is no longer an entity that’s outside of you. It’s, it’s, you embody it. And, and that’s the journey that I want for my Fresno State students. Like specifically.

Joe Gottlieb:

Yeah. So if this were somehow dependable in a thermal graph in terms of this confidence, this engagement, this personal journey, vesting occurring, if you zoomed out on your campus and viewed it from above, right?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Like

Joe Gottlieb:

The, the notion that you’re going for here is that your, your team that is facilitating this experience, right? For your students and your students who are co-creating it as they go, right? That’s, it represents this hive of energy and, and yes. And sound and thermal. That’s it, you know, extension, right? Right. That’s what, that’s what we’re playing for here. And that’s just so different from, if you grafted the old way, it would, it would just look differently. It would be a more passive receptacle that was Yes. Sort of struggling. That’s absorbs a a, a very intense light coming from each professor, but it was dissipating very shortly after bouncing off the students.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Yeah. And I remember Joe being in the classroom and my, I would look forward or in my office, and I would look forward to this moment in which a student would come up to me and said, and, and would say, professor, professor, I know what I wanna become <laugh> <laugh>. Right? But in that moment, what we saw was the genesis of the self in knowledge that is directly rooted in society. Yeah. I know how I’m going to contribute my knowledge into making our world better. And I remember this one student who was taking a class with me, who, who came to me and said, I’m going to become a biologist and I’m going to work for the park service, and I’m going to do like all of these things. And then I just actually just got connected with her the other day, and she effectively did become a biologist working for the park service.

Joe Gottlieb:

Wow. You

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Know, it’s, it’s like, like this impressive becoming of the self, when you provide the right tools for the person to, to harbor that sense of belonging of themselves that is then projected onto the world.

Joe Gottlieb:

Exciting stuff. Okay. Let’s in this reformed version of higher ed that we’re dreaming about and perhaps partially experiencing

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Sure. What

Joe Gottlieb:

Does the, what does this new core curriculum look like? How might the US reclaim the power of, of its general ed? What does that look like? And what role does it play in, in, in rounding out the student experience?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So we, we have to realize as university administrators, as professors, we have to realize that the knowledge is there at the fingertips of all of our students. Hmm. It’s there, in, in our phone. We have access to millions, a million times more knowledge than you and I ever had as undergraduates. Hmm. And, and that is a revolutionary thought.

Joe Gottlieb:

Absolutely

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Revolutionary thought. So within this, then we need to stop teaching prescriptively, and I’m gonna say that again. We cannot teach the form. Hmm. We cannot teach the know prescription. You must give me back an essay that is exactly the way I want it. It’s gone. It’s completely gone. And we have to then hone in on how do we bolster these critical thinking skills so that they can advance their unique view on the world and contribute uniquely to the wicked problems that we are facing. If we want to break this cycle of recycled knowledge over and over and over, I am teaching you what I was taught, and now I want you to give me back exactly what I was taught. It takes a lot of guts and a lot of giving up of one’s privilege to say, I’m going to be a facilitator for you because I want your original, unique cultural ideas to come to the foreground so that they can become part of this tapestry of solutions that we need for the world.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

So number one, that would be my number one thing that I, that I say we have to see ourselves as these co-educators with our students. Our, our students coming are coming to us many times with far more knowledge of AI <laugh> than most of our professors have. And far more knowledge of like so many other things, you know, that than our professors have. So the biggest challenge that I see in all of this is how do we then retrain, upskill our professors to meet this challenge when they have invested a lifetime of, this is what I do and this is how I do it.

Joe Gottlieb:

A and a lot of that is vested in dare I say it, it’s, it’s ego again. Right. But but yes, but, but stated in a more constructive form, not to be so negative. I mean, it as a naming it for what it is, as you’ve said, they’ve got 30 years-ish invested in in a, in a knowledge base that has now become valuable to them. It they’ve been, they were trained to harvest that knowledge and be productive in society by giving it to others. Right. But what we’re talking about here is being able to shift and say to each student, you have the opportunity to go well beyond what I’m gonna be, what I was ever able to do in any field. Yes. That’s right. Because you get to take for granted what I had to painstakingly assemble in my mind. <Laugh>.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

That’s exactly right. Right.

Joe Gottlieb:

That

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Is exactly right, Joe.

Joe Gottlieb:

And, and so if we, if we can see it that way, it’s as if we’re on, on a good day when we’re parents, we have this contract with our children. We are, we, we, we celebrate, we relish the fact that they can be more than we were. Right. Even if we’re still hung up on some ego about what we’ve personally achieved. That’s

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. But,

Joe Gottlieb:

But, but that’s, that’s also tricky even in a family. It’s now we’re talking about this is a profession with people that you’re not related to, but that you’re connected to via this, via this this academic contract, this new academic contract.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. You know, oftentimes we speak about the, the, our students are the next generation of leaders. Yeah. Then let’s, let’s forge them as such. If they are going to be those who, who are going to come after me, my successors. Right. Then let’s see them as such.

Joe Gottlieb:

Let us behave like we believe it. That’s

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. That’s right. Yeah. And, and for the most part, what we, what we have done is we have been the gatekeepers that say, no, no, no, I’m the quality control. You are here and you are not here, therefore you don’t pass. Where, whereas this, this is on, its, it’s, it’s on its head. Right? I am not going to say, what knowledge do you come, do, you do you bring with you so that I can help you direct it, enhance it, strengthen it, stylize it, purify it, so that you can then say to yourself, I, I know where I want to go and I want to go this way. So

Joe Gottlieb:

Now let’s bring this conversation into the, the form.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Sure.

Joe Gottlieb:

Physical, online, hybrid. Yeah. Let’s talk about your views on how this vision is actualized through these forms.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Right. So the forum at Fresno State, we have seen, we have done a lot of analyses and we have seen that some classes just do not do well in terms of G P A because we need that interaction. If I have a freshman coming to Fresno State, I want the freshmen to be on campus a lot of time because space provides identity, space provides belonging, space provides a development of the self in relationship to others as well. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, the more one is in a space, the more one says to oneself, I belong, this is mine. I’m proud of this. And these experience, they’re fundamental. Right.

Joe Gottlieb:

The place mat

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

It it is, it totally is. Right. And, and, and I, I know I had a somebody come and do a tour of the university, and I was I accompanied them and we entered this one building, and it’s one of the oldest buildings on campus built in the fifties. And she said to me, wow, the scent of this place is the same. And all of these, like, memories just like rush through right. Of these experiences that this person had lived there. Mm-Hmm. So, so we want that. We absolutely want that. So we want our freshmen to be exposed to the space that Fresno State is because they are getting acquainted to the notion of what is a bullock, what is a Fresno State Bullock? We want our, our, our transfer students to do the same, spend time with this, spend time with our space so that they, they can develop experiences with each other, they can figure things out together, and then they can harbor a new sense, a new version, their own version of what a bulldog is. So that, that’s fundamental. There are other areas in which we can say absolutely an online virtual presence for this class is necessary if the professor has the right tools, the right training in order to maintain highly engaged, highly active environment. And those are very possible.

Joe Gottlieb:

And I know active at Cal State Fresno, and, and I imagine this is a pretty universal thing, the continuing education and or degree completion type programs, these are situations where oftentimes you don’t have the luxury of bringing someone back to the physical place. Right. Or maybe they, you can help get them to another physical place, even if not yours. That’s right. Wherever they wound up physically. Yes. But to the bridge there, the catalyst might have to be totally online as a way to fit with what, what they’re up to now. Yes. Is that a fair way to think of that tool? It

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Is. It is a fair way to think of that tool. What we don’t want is we don’t want modules that the person, the student will do on their own. And then there’s no sense of community, there’s no sense of interaction with each other within the virtual space. Absolutely. We can have that with the right training.

Joe Gottlieb:

Makes sense. Okay. Let’s summarize, let’s, let’s share three takeaways that we can offer our listeners on this very exciting topic of how AI will catalyze higher ed reform.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Sure. So if we can, if we can summarize the first is, AI is accelerating this accessibility and assimilation of knowledge, like it has never done that before in the history of humanity. Which means that higher ed can now focus much more on harboring the sense and the power of the individual, and less on a mechanical, almost transferring of duplicative knowledge to our students. Hmm. So that’s, that’s really, really important to me. We must harness the power of the individual by becoming coaches or becoming facilitators. Number two, what students need from higher ed is a new core experience that equips them to continuously sharpen their critical thinking skills, their ways to analyze the world, their creativity, their communicative and collaborative skills with each other so that this provides them a sense of themselves, a sense of identity, a sense of belonging. And then after that, then what do we have?

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

We have this new skill being developed of the self. The best higher education institutions will advance each student’s sense of belonging, not just to the institution, not just to themselves, but more importantly to the community. So what we see, Joe, is we see a development of the self that discovers their own power, their own talents, and then they’re able to visualize, physically visualize how it is that they will become active, productive participants in building solutions for a better world and a more equitable society for all of us. So they project, they literally project themselves onto the society that we want them to build for all of us.

Joe Gottlieb:

Saúl, thank you so much for joining me today.

Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval:

Thanks for the great opportunity. This has been just so much fun, <laugh>,

Joe Gottlieb:

And thanks to our listeners as well. I hope you have a great day, and we’ll look forward to hosting you on the next episode of TRANSFORMED.


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About The Host

 

As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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