The process of managing uncertainty starts by spending time thinking about the future. That may sound a bit facile, and probably doesn't seem like an academic pursuit on its face. But planning is a discipline
Note that Martin Luther King Jr. declared 'I have a dream,' neither 'I have a plan' nor 'I have a strategy.' By articulating a shared dream -- not a plan, not a strategy -- he empowered his fellow Americans to participate in a national dialogue as to how to achieve that vision.
As both an educator and a parent of college-age daughters, I admit finding it unseemly to treat education as a "product" and students (and fathers like me) as "consumers." Education belongs in a realm apart from shoes, smartphones and salsa.
Defining "world-class university" has been the subject of much intellectual discourse and, if any institution would like to achieve world-class status, the famous phrase "I know it when I see it" does not provide sufficient guidance.
Perhaps the most important contribution of professors doing research is that it creates (or at least enforces) lifelong learners, learning that involves making mistakes while pursuing the joy of discovery.
America has always had a pioneering spirit, and we have always admired pioneers. They may not wear buckskin anymore or climb into space capsules. They just may be the quiet person in the lab of a research university, studying particles too small to be seen.
With $250 billion in endowment and a group of the most accomplished individuals on the planet, research universities have no choice but to gear up to attack the world's biggest problems and provide a jump start to getting the pie growing.
Research universities' problem is not that they have many functions, it's that they engage in false and misleading accounting practices that result in escalating costs and decreased educational quality.
Ironically, many of the budgetary forces at universities work to drive up tuition costs and lower educational quality; and most of the reasons for this strange combination have to do with compensation.