Transformational leadership: challenging the present, building the future
Education changes the lives of individuals, communities and countries. The raison d’etre of our academics has always been is to challenge the status quo – to ask questions about the values, cultures, structures of society, and to transform the way in which we see our world. Today our institutions have a critical leadership role to play in solving some the most difficult and intransigent challenges of society - exclusion, inequality, social justice and integration. This session offers the floor to two great transformational educational leaders from different continents. We ask them to relate what this looks like in practice and to reflect on their own leadership.
On Professor Jonathan Jansen’s appointment to Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS) in 2009, he faced a university community deeply divided by racial tension in a country of which he said: “who would have thought that barely a decade after the miracle of our transition we would be talking about 'minorities' in a democracy founded on the principles of non-racialism? And who could have predicted the bare-knuckled violence that kills white farmers on their lands and foreign nationals on our streets, or that the poorest of black citizens would be felled by the racial anger of an 18-year old white boy barely out of high school? South Africa faces today 'our unfinished business'. Our university, too, faces unfinished business”.
Professor Jansen talks about "nearness as a construct in the transformation of higher education", his vision of building community across the divides of race, religion, gender, disability, national origins and sexual identity - and the reality of developing an institution and education from which no student will graduate without the knowledge to be compassionate humans, critical citizens and ethical leaders in their disciplines and professions.
Dr Eduardo Padrón argues that the US higher-education system, contrary to its proclaimed goals, is failing to equalise opportunities among low- and high-income students. A college degree has become the degree of division between those who prosper and those who struggle for a better life, yet the US's current process of admission, enrolment and graduation contributes to glaring economic inequality. The higher-education system, like the larger society, is becoming increasingly unequal. Unless this inequality in the higher education system can be reversed, the US will see the continuation of a generation unnecessarily relegated to poverty
Dr Padrón talks about the role and reality of Miami Dade College on the front lines of battling inequality, bridging the opportunity gap between privileged and underprivileged students. We ask him to reflect also on the type of leadership he has employed to help revolutionise the role of community colleges in the US.