Meet Roundtable Members
Rick Stephens and Elane V. Stephens
The Spirit of Leadership and the Soul of Commerce
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The System – Seeking the Soul of Commerc
INTERVIEW WITH RICK STEPHENS
Interviewed by Pamela Jaye Smith
Pamela Jaye Smith: Why are you participating in the conference?
Rick Stephens – I’ve been involved in the aero-space industry for the last 25 years. My role has been about, how do you bring people together and integrate their thoughts and their actions to develop solutions for really hard problems that range anywhere from guidance systems, missile systems or the space shuttle and many other systems, that can really help this nation. What interested me about the Institute for Global Transformation® is the opportunity to spend time with a group that I wouldn’t normally spend time with. Quite honestly I have to admit it’s made me a little bit uncomfortable in the process because here I am, someone whose focus is really on information, facts and figures; again, it’s really about focusing on developing products and services. Interacting with an organization that I would say, tends to be a little bit more ethereal in their thought process and maybe not looking at having a lot of world application, I think that has been particularly important for me though, when I think about it you know, not only the intellectual side of what’s important, but we are all involved from an emotional perspective and a spiritual perspective. And so this group has given me an opportunity to really explore those other thoughts and it’s, I think, important because my passion beyond the day to day work life is about education and developing people for the future. Whether it’s for the work force or this thing we call America and a Democracy. In order to be successful in that, we really need to recognize that people have those three components; intellectual perspectives, emotional perspectives, and spiritual perspectives and being in a dialog with IFGT is about helping myself with a better understanding of how people think in those other areas that I’m not used to working with on a day to day basis.
Pamela Jaye Smith: What does consciousness mean to you?
Rick Stephens – The term consciousness is an interesting one for me. And I again struggle with how to articulate what that word means to me. For me it’s about alignment and integration because my world is about how do you bring people together with a common sense of values, which leads to a common sense of vision and therefore a common set of actions going forward. The term consciousness is one not normally used in my environment. But I interpret it to mean gaining some perspective about shared values and bringing those to light, gaining some perspectives about the motivations, the attitudes, the perspectives which drive behavior and establish that in a conscious way so we get it out of our hearts and our minds and get it out on the table. To me that is what consciousness is all about and with that perspective, we can then begin to have an important discussion about all the elements that really drive our long term behavior. So again for me, consciousness is a difficult term, one that most in my industry would struggle with. I think it is an important term and it helps us begin to think as an integrated team and plan our way forward together.
Pamela Jaye Smith: Do you have a favorite example of the evolution of consciousness?
Rick Stephens – I’m not sure I have a really favorite example of consciousness per se or the notion of evolution. But if I do reach back into my work experience, there are a number of examples of where getting people’s shared thoughts and ideas on the table and then moving forward to come up with solutions has really benefited the organization overall. Whether it ranges from developing something like an international space station where you have 16 nations all with different languages, all with different motivations, all with different monetary systems; all with different technical desires for achievement, coming together to develop a space station that’s going to circle the globe for, you know, twenty years. Now just think about the challenges associated with that, where we have to think about how we’re going to align; how do we integrate and recognize this notion about technology; it’s about what goes on from an emotional perspective and based upon their fundamental spiritual beliefs of why should we make this endeavor, which is a significantly expensive project you know, measured in not tens of millions of dollars; but only measured in billions of dollars. So to me, that is probably the best example I can think of in the aerospace industry that talks about this integration of activity, whether you call it consciousness or integration of actions going forward.
Pamela Jaye Smith: How do you see people getting involved in the “Future of Consciousness” project, whatever it might turn out to be?
Rick Stephens – I think that getting people involved in this notion of consciousness is a good idea and a great example is this conference. They’re going to have the opportunity to listen to ten people talk about consciousness from many different angles. Everyone of the people speaking at this conference has a different thought process; different idea; different project. But in the end we’re all thinking about the same sorts of things. Again it’s what motivates us, what drives us, what causes us to think differently. They’re going to see amongst the ten of us the recognition that we all came together as ten individuals but we’ve begun to share our thoughts and ideas; raise our individual perspective of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual consciousness.
We’ve built bridges between us so it’s not a bunch of independent presentations but about how we’re bringing our best thoughts and ideas to the table. Then we as a group have to reach out to the audience, who is going to participate, and together cross all the bridges associated with that so we really have a dialog back and forth. The best way to get involved is to begin to open with thoughts and ideas and I have to tell you this has been a struggle for me. This is a group I would not normally associate with and so people come to this conference and get involved in a way that says “I’m willing to think outside the box. I need to use terms and language that I don’t understand. I need to ask questions. I need to think about it more from a framework of how other people might think about it, than the way I might think about it.” That’s the best way to get involved. And I think, if we begin to think about the value of this particular conference, it’s really about how do we begin as a small group and work together to build a larger group, to think about how we transform not just a county or a state or a nation, but a global perspective about our way forward. There is so much information; so many different religions; so much ethnicity; so many different backgrounds and beliefs. I think the challenge we face as we go forward, as the population continues to grow and expand, is that if we’re going to be successful we really do need to think about the integrated world that we live in, not the individual world that is very easy for us to get trapped in. It’s about how are you going to integrate and align with everyone else so we can all be successful.
Pamela Jaye Smith: Is it important to connect in consciousness in the business world?
Rick Stephens – Getting involved in this notion about consciousness and thinking differently is different for all of us. For me, I don’t have a particular reading list or a particular thought or idea. But what I do have is this notion about allowing the mind to expand, to think outside the normal process. I come from the aerospace business and really focus on facts and figures, but I am also one who is a leader in business from a Human Resource perspective. It’s different for all of us. In our particular business we do an annual survey of employees’ perspectives and we do a very good job measuring what I call the intellectual perspective. When I say from the intellectual perspective, do employees understand where the business is going, do they understand the role of management, do they have good dialog back and forth between their leaders, are they able to raise issues? That’s the intellectual side.
But we’re beginning to measure the emotional side as well and to measure the emotional side is getting some sense of perspective from them about those things that really motivate them to be involved in the business. Being intellectually involved about getting a paycheck is one thing and we all want to get paid. We have things that we want to pay for whether it’s food, clothing, housing or special things we want to purchase and enjoy. But those are short lived. When people are really engaged emotionally and then get up in the morning, they don’t think about whether they’re going to make a buck today or tomorrow; they think about “I’m going to work because I’m going to make a difference whether I’m cleaning a new airplane that allows people to connect; whether I’m building an international space station even though I may not fly it, I’m making sure I’m taking care of someone’s life.” Those are really the motivating factors that are so critically important.
And so in business, when we help our employees see that emotional connectivity they begin to really be engaged with what’s going on. So I think about this conference and how do we get them emotionally engaged? This is not about facts and figures, it’s what motivates me as an individual to want something and I think we have the opportunity as speakers to help engage people’s thought process and help people open their minds and their thoughts, and so it’s a two-way conversation we’re going to have in this engagement; so we have to be motivated to listen and we have to be motivated to share our thoughts and ideas and it’s through that engagement that we’ll get there.
A little story and I’ll share a little bit more tomorrow; I needed one of the company drivers to take me from one point to another and we were just having a conversation on “How’s the weather? What’s going on?” And we got into this discussion about what motivates him as an individual. What’s really interesting; he is really involved in this notion about consciousness. Now here’s an aerospace worker involved in this discussion about consciousness, talking to a senior leader in aerospace. And for me it was a really interesting discussion. But I can assure you that that individual, from now on says, “I got the opportunity to transport a senior leader of the company and he not only knows that I am a good driver, he knows what I’m interested in and I got to share that with him.” I guarantee you that employee is a lot more engaged, a lot more involved. He’s thinking outside the box. Those are the sorts of employees we want. Those are the sorts of people that we want in this world thinking beyond their own personal desires, personal expectations. So I think it’s a matter that people are just thinking outside the box and they say, “What can I do with this?” How can I help others?” “How can I be engaged and involved in this great society?”
Pamela Jaye Smith: What are the challenges we face as a society?
Rick Stephens – I think one of the challenges that we all face is to think outside our own particular box, whether it’s the emotional, spiritual or intellectual perspective. It’s not easy but the rewards are certainly there. It’s that reaching out to others, in thinking differently, and opening our minds that really enables the capacity that we have within all of us. I think so many people today think about what’s important for them as individuals; because quite frankly we live in interesting economic times where it’s heavily competitive. There is always a push by the media which says we need to own more, to have more products, have the faster car, have the better clothes, have the bigger house. Discussions like this help open our awareness that life is more than about what we own; it’s about the value that we give back to society and so having discussions like this, to me, are ones that are important; they’re ones that really bring out the values of society; they’re really the ones that talk about our value, not as individuals but what we can do collectively as an integrated team going forward and raising this level of consciousness. Intellectual, emotional and spiritual to me is an important part that we all need to recognize because we as people are not individuals per se; we are people out to collaborate, integrate and work together, not only for our personal gain but for the well being of those around us.
Pamela Jaye Smith: How do you see the relationship between management and employees?
Rick Stephens – I think this whole notion about the relationship between management and employees in any organization, whether it’s the aerospace organization or anywhere else, is recognizing that leaders play an important role. After all they’re the ones that have resources, the ones that have more power, and leaders have to recognize that in the end, they’re not the ones who do the real work and I define real work as turning wrenches…. So I am a believer that leaders need to recognize that their position and responsibility is about first creating the vision or some may say charting the course. What does the future look like? What’s the environment we see? What are the challenges we face? What are customers telling us? What’s going on on the outside? What are the potential opportunities they can bring to the table? Then translating all that in a way anyone in the organization understands. Putting that vision in place, to me, is a critical success factor for any organization and I think when leaders fail to recognize the value they bring, in creating that vision, the organizations fail.
Those organizations that are successful are the ones that do in fact create the vision. The second thing that needs to occur is, leaders need to recognize that they don’t do “any real work.” Yet it’s not like leaders don’t work lots of hours, probably seventy, eighty or ninety hours a week, mostly it’s work, work, work. But in creating that vision; they have got to find the very best people to be able to go forward and make sure again those people understand what that vision looks like and those people see themselves in it and provide the right motivation and incentives to press forward. Again it’s not about dollars, it’s about creating the environment, creating an environment where people will say “I not only understand that future, I see myself as part of that future and my leaders can provide the resources necessary for me to press forward and we have this on-going dialogue back and forth about not only what that picture is but what the plan is to be able to achieve that picture. And when that happens my experience tells me the people bring great ideas, great thoughts forward and then leaders then help the individuals harvest the best ones, give them the right resources and then press forward.
A couple of examples: When I was in a business in Georgia, I walked in one day and quite frankly one customer told us, “You’re the very worse contractor that we’ve ever had.” And that was, you know, quite remarkable in itself; the best at being the worst, which is a very particular challenge. But what it did was provide a real motivating factor for the leaders to say, “This is where we’re going and we leaders have got to create the right environment because my experience also says there are rarely bad organizations; there are bad leaders and when leaders recognize they create the right organization or the right environment, all of those in the organization start achieving that. Now certainly you have to move some bad leaders out or to the next level down, and by and large you start pulling people in the right direction. Creating the right environment is critically important. I think in the end, in many successful organizations you see that when the leaders create the right environment, organizations excel. Whether it’s from a customer perspective, whether it’s from a stock price, or whether it’s from innovation. I mean there are many cases around today where poor leaders have been indicted, often jailed. You see the organization has suffered tremendously because the leaders have not created the right environment and so I tend to not think about organizations from management versus labor per se. I think about organizations as the responsibilities that leaders have and the responsibilities of those who do real work, making sure there is alignment. What makes a great powerful organization is when you are working together as an integrated team with the same visio, with the right resources allocated, and a way to have dialog back and forth. We’re ever competitive in the global market so we are always coming up with new ideas, and it’s those who create the right environment who are able to recognize when change occurs, to move more quickly than the competition, those are the ones who are successful. It’s because leaders create the right environment.
Pamela Jaye Smith: You’ve talked about alignment, why is that so important?
Rick Stephens – There’s something called the Mckenzie’s 7S Model, which talks about the alignment of seven words that all start with “S.” There’s this notion about S-hared Values and Vision. Once you have S-hared Values and Vision, you then begin to get this alignment of consciousness of the entire organization. Based upon that, then you’ve got to have a set of S-trategies that allow you to achieve that set of S-hared Values or that S-hared Vision. In getting an alignment around those S-trategies, then focus discussions about the organization’s S-tructure. What’s it look like? Where are the boxes? How do the individuals or organizations interrelate with each other to be able to achieve that S-trategy? And you’ve got to have a way to connect those in a way that you have your on-going discussions. So the next is about the S-ystems. How do you interact with them from a financial, from a business, from a customer perspective, when the S-ystems are in place to do that?
Now four of the “S’s” I’ve just described are again, the Shared Values/Vision, Strategies, Structure and Systems. We are going to talk about those because we can touch them, we can feel them, we can articulate them. The other three “S’s” are called the soft “S’s.” They’re about S-kills. What are the skills that you need to be able to carry off the S-trategy, S-tructures and S-ystems? Who are the S-taff? Who are the real people? What’s going on in their mind? What are they thinking about, not only intellectually but emotionally? And what’s the basis of why they do things, which to me is what I call the spiritual side? The next is also a very soft “S” and that’s S-tyle. It’s the style that the leaders create. They create the right environment in which the S-taff with their S-kill can move forward and when you think about all those and the McKenzie 7-S Model; the challenge is, you’ve got to have an alignment about all those “S’s.”
Typically what happens in most organizations is that, when a leader comes in they may think that they understand what the shared values are. But unless you begin to spend some time in this dialog and discussion about shared values and a shared vision, you may get what I call the bobbing head syndrome. You get everyone sitting around the room and you as the leader say, “This is where we’re going to go.” All the bobbing heads say he’s the leader or she’s the leader, of course that’s where we’re going to go. Or the leader walks out and says, “I can’t believe what that guy just said….” Well once you begin to spend time around that and you get an alignment around all those “S’s”, if a new leader walks in and says what I want to do is govern the same but change the organizational structure or change the style or change the staff; now you have a misalignment and so every time there’s a change in a structure, whether it’s business, whether it’s an philanthropic organization, whether it’s a spiritual organization, you’ve got to go back and ask yourself, do we have an alignment about all those “S’s?”
When all the alignment occurs, that’s when organizations really hum. That’s when they really perform. When there’s misalignments that’s where you have issues and it takes time to be able to work your way through and so it’s particularly important when any leader goes into an organization to think about what those implications are. And so, when I talk about that tomorrow it’s because it’s an important element. There are many different models out there besides the Mckenzie 7-S Model but for me, I’ve been using that model for oh, probably a better part of 20 years now and it has worked very successfully. Take that organization I talked about that was told they were the worst. In a 2 ½ year period it went from the worst to arguably the best, to the point the customer took sight inspections out. And it wasn’t that I did anything magical per se, it was about getting alignment, integration, which for me goes back to this term getting the consciousness of the organization integrated in a way so we all kind of get it. We all know where we’re going and that’s what the world of leaders are about in any organization. Whether its business; whether it’s religious; whether it’s philanthropic; whether its government, and I contend the challenge this nation has today is not that we don’t have smart people in place. They’ve not spent the time to really understand and recognize and integrate this level of consciousness and put the discussion on the table in the way that it allows us to go forward. A democracy is about “we the people.” And I think in any case and we have a democracy today that tends to be a little bit more polarized from a political standpoint and one that tends to be more ideologically driven as opposed to what’s in the best interest for the nation. Now probably that is a little bit unfair. It’s not saying one is right and one is wrong. It says it’s about alignment rather than it’s about in order for me to succeed, you have to fail.
And so I think we’ve got a lot of discussion going on in this nation but it’s not about in order for us to succeed they have to fail, it’s in order for us to succeed together we have to recognize our different perspectives and how do we go forward together as the basis for the betterment of the nation rather than as the basis for me as a particular individual. And whether you look at challenges in Social Security or it’s the baby boomers saying, “I want to protect my Social Security at all costs,” versus the youngsters coming into the workforce saying, “I don’t want to pay for all those baby boomers and continue to get taxed.” That’s a tough polarity issue. So we need to get it down on the table so we can have an objective dialog and both sides have to give in the process. Medical costs continue to rise because of research, which is important for saving people’s lives, balanced against the litigation associated with that, balanced against who pays, which is another very difficult set of issues to be able to work through; the notion of education is another difficult challenge.
If all I did was set standards and accountability in schools, of course things would be good. The problem is kids only spend 12% of the time in school. If they only spent 12% of the time in school what’s going on in the rest of their lives? They spend more time listening to the media then actually in the classroom. And so we can’t continue to beat up on teachers. We have to recognize that society’s got to come together to work in an integrated way and have these really interesting dialogs and discussions and get it all on the table; that now allow us to go forward. Whether you call it consciousness; whether you call it the common ground process; whether you call it the 7-S process; these are all tools and techniques about getting alignment in consciousness, alignment about the intellectual, emotional and spiritual perspective which is critical for us going forward together.
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Next Steps, Coming Together Around A Common Vision
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Rick Stephens and Elane V. Scott combined their efforts in 1999 to develop strategies to ensure there are sufficient numbers of qualified people who can be successful in an ever increasingly complex global job market dependent on technology and communication excellence.
Birth2Work.org, a not-for-profit, is the result of years of collective research by Rick Stephens, an aerospace executive, and Elane V. Scott, a nationally recognized consultant on issues related to developing young people to become capable, global citizens, and future work force education.
Toward this aim, Rick brings more than 25 years of leadership of multiple businesses in aerospace. As his working partner, Elane brings over 20 years of experience in developing communication bridges between businesses, schools and their communities.
Birth2Work, guided by founders Rick and Elane, is beginning to align and eventually help to integrate the efforts of individuals, organizations, and member-driven associations all across the country toward the much needed synthesis required between them to build the birth to work pipeline and highlight the path to lifelong learning.
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The System – Seeking the Soul of Commerce
by Rick Stephens and Elane V. Scott
Introducing “The System: Seeking the Soul of Commerce” in e-Book format. Our nation’s young people are being poorly prepared for success in tomorrow’s workforce. Thousands of programs, policies, and initiatives have failed to generate a scalable and sustainable way forward. No one reason stands out. No group or institution can be blamed. Every citizen has a share of the responsibility.
The Future of Higher Education
By Rick Stephens, Senior Vice President, Aero-space
This is an example of the use of principles of transforming consciousness through alignment and integration presented at a September 2005 Conference by Rick Stephens.
This paper is a first step toward the movement of a diverse group of people charged with creating an action plan, that when applied will ensure that there will be adequate future higher education opportunities in the United States. Successful planning for future higher education will result in accessible and affordable opportunities, within a context of quality, to a broader base of people over a longer period of time than ever before. The worth of tomorrow’s higher education will be measured in value to those it serves, not to those who administer the system.
The following quote helps put in perspective that education is far more than acquiring knowledge; it is about capability, capacity and critical thinking…
“We are attempting to educate and prepare students (hire people into the workforce) today so that they are ready to solve future problems, not yet identified, using technologies not yet invented, based on scientific knowledge not yet discovered.”Joseph Lagowski, University of Texas at Austin
Each of us brings background, perspective and insights to this task, all of which are deeply colored by preconceived ideas about the value of our own ideas and experiences over the value of the contributions by others. And, in many cases, some have already devoted significant time developing a set of recommendations for the commission to consider.
Is our work about “tweaking” the current system? Are we here to assure that today’s roles and responsibilities in the existing higher education system are merely improved to continue focusing primarily on young people going directly to college from high school knowing that typically 50% of those who start four year institutions no longer finish in four years? Or, will we be considering fundamental and systemic change keeping in mind that more and more people are pursuing higher education at an older and older age and getting degrees which are a mix of course work gathered at brick and mortar as well as online institutions? This is of considerable importance when thinking about the numbers of people in the higher educational system today who are in their mid twenties and older, with less participation in campus life, which has historically been as important to many attending higher education as the classes attended. Is the lessening of participation in campus life a factor to be ignored relative to its importance to the growth and development of the whole student in formal higher education institutions? Thus, I believe our recommendations must be much more than about trying to make courses better and more accessible. We must be about a whole new message for higher education…. one that affirms the importance of complex relationships that must be developed and skill needs that go far beyond knowledge creation and transfer.
While sociability may seem peripheral and a non-academic issue, it is relevant to students’ abilities to make their degrees count when they graduate. Far too many students today are attending classes, getting their grades, being issued their diplomas and then walking out expecting a job. Many have become “NIKEs” – non income kids with an education, because they didn’t in fact find a job. Where they cut corners in their education was in the development of networks of relationships with teachers and professionals to give them the recommendations and experiences they needed to move towards being hired for work or research. While they gained knowledge, they didn’t learn about how to translate it into value for the workplace.
As a businessman, like all of us, I bring a set of expectations and motivations toward participation in this commission. I too have received many books, papers, and videos to review and consider in our work. While all of the information helps provide a baseline from which to consider moving forward with recommendations, my concern is that we have not first aligned and integrated our thoughts into a set of cogent, shared ideas which clarify a unified view of what we think higher education should be. We’ve all participated in the education system that is the challenge before us today. The real question is about what higher education should become, not what it is today.
I think we would all agree that because of what was mentioned in the first part of this paper, and the considerable increase in alternative options for higher education, the whole system is at a crossroads That said, it’s not clear that we agree on where the crossroads is, nor that we even have a sense of what choices those who seek higher education in the future will need or should have for going forward. As an example, relative to accessibility to a number of different types of institutions such as community colleges, four year institutions, private technical colleges or courses on line, we must ask ourselves what we think the critical outcomes for students should be. Are we considering higher education as institutions and processes where knowledge is increased, or do we consider higher education as places where “students” gain skills and knowledge that will allow them to develop and/or improve their value in the marketplace? And what will be the measures of quality? Will it be about numbers who graduate in a specified period of time, or will be about the number of “graduates” who are able to apply their educational experience adding value in the marketplace?
So, if I were to describe the skills and abilities the products of higher education should have, they would be the following.
- The ability to define problems
- Be able to assimilate relevant data
- Conceptualize information and reorganize it
- Make inductive and deductive leaps with it
- Ask hard questions
- Discuss findings with colleagues
- Work collaboratively to find solutions
- Convince others of their position
It is important to note that these skills are as much about relationships and interactions as they are about knowledge and information manipulation.
With a few college degrees of my own and four youngsters at various places in the whole education system chain, I thought I understood where the problems and opportunities were for students as they were working their way through the system to the future work place. But after 6 years of research and personal involvement with as many formal and informal learning environments as you can name, I came to the conclusion that my own personal views were too limiting a lens from which to draw any sweeping conclusions about how to solve the problems I faced as an employer. I believe this also applies to community leaders.
I share this with you because, like so many who think that just because they’ve been through the education process, they are experts. Many in the business world, who talk with confidence about how to fix the education system, are likely to miss understanding that fixing it only comes with more exposure to the places where education is traditionally delivered. For that reason, with all of their certainty about how to “fix schools”, they miss the fact that what we’re confronted with is an American culture that needs a new paradigm about higher education.
In that same vein, many who have not worked in a business world assert with certainty about how American business people operate and what businesses should do to set a better example or help higher education. I have personally been confronted in this way in public speaking engagements. These statements are not new to anyone here, but I also mention them here to strongly emphasize how different and often hidden the motivations and drivers are for each of us as we look at the task we face. And those points must be addressed early in our work so that we, as a team, can come together and first develop a common language for communicating thoughts and ideas to each other. Otherwise, we run the risk of putting a lot of words on the table that result in a set of unplanned behaviors.
Further compounding our challenge is recognition that the needs for access to higher education are being driven by the global labor market. The shift in skills and jobs requires that we ask ourselves about who should have access to higher education as we have traditionally viewed it.
The figure points out what many would say. Access to education is critical to achieving the right level of skills. And, I think most would say everyone should have access. It’s not clear, however, that our current delivery system is set up to handle everyone.
In order to serve the purpose of this commission and deliver valuable suggestions that are useful to help make higher education more accessible, affordable, and (relevant) to our nation’s people today, I am suggesting that we use an alignment and integration process.
I believe there are three key steps that we as a commission need to take together. The steps are part of a broader process many of us involved in complex systems development and integration use. They are:
- Develop a set of shared values associated with higher education. This action typically employs the nominal group technique to establish a set of values about higher education that we all support and can use as a reference point to assess what we create. This process also forces development of a common language and understanding for going forward.
- Develop a common vision for higher education. What is it? What does it look like? Who does it serve? These are key attributes that are important elements of the vision. That vision will become the guiding framework for the work of the cost, accessibility and quality teams.
- Develop the strategies that will help us attain the vision.
I believe we have the right team, the right motivations, and the right intent. My position and focus is about ensuring we have a common language, common understanding and common focus so that, when we’re done, we are aligned around a set of policies and recommendations that we fully support and will enable the Secretary to lead us all in a rebirth of American higher education for the new millennium.