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The Reinvention of Higher Education with Dr. Robert Kelly

Dr. Robert Kelly serves as Vice President and Special Assistant to the President at Loyola University Maryland. As we catch up with Rob, he’s doing the deep work of reintroducing students to campus. He does so under the shadow of a pandemic, only just now meeting the tease of a vaccine and a general misimpression that all colleges and universities are potential super-spreading elements of national concern.

The field of higher education is already carrying unchecked baggage. Higher education is expensive. The burden of those costs on families is extraordinary for many, and questions about the use of funds dampens the delivery of services. The digital divide is not closing as quickly as it must, particularly if institutions are genuinely looking to face diversity and inclusion challenges — black and brown students and families are increasingly falling behind. And did we mention the “enrollment cliff” that was already on the horizon? All this was facing our higher ed institutions before the COVID contraction and is still there, brewing, growing.

That’s what makes higher education such an exceptional example of institutions pressing forward.

“Students have a hunger that we need to meet,” says Rob. “We have to hold on to that.”

We open our conversation with Rob with a question that comes to us courtesy of the Masai people who open conversations by asking, “how are the children?” They measure the health of their culture by the health of their children. For Rob, they’re not doing great right now. As you’ll hear from our conversation, this drives the charge for him, the faculty at the University, parents, and other engaged adults to create a culture celebrating reconciliation, curiosity, joy, and hope.

This is a conversation about responsibility; taking responsibility for crafting the future for those in our care. Rob shares how he is helping Loyola to build according to their mission: pressing forward on issues of culture, climate, race, and inclusion in the face of obstacles of our own creation.

Links & Notes

  • Sponsor: Today’s podcast is brought to you by audible – get a FREE audiobook download and 30-day free trial at Over 180,000 titles to choose from for your iPhone, Android, Kindle or mp3 player.
  • (00:00) – Welcome to Mission Forward
  • (01:16) – Meet Rob Kelley
  • (02:54) – Obstacles in Higher Ed Now
  • (05:08) – Hope in 2021
  • (08:24) – Sponsor: Audbile —
  • (09:04) – How Are the Kids Doing?
  • (11:21) – How do you press forward?
  • (14:38) – Equity in Higher Ed
  • (23:55) – What’s Inspiring Rob
  • (25:03) – Wrapping Up
This season, we are taking you on a journey to meet ten people influencing and shaping how we communicate at scale for social change. From advertising executives to coalition directors, news editors, campaign managers, and authors, they’re all people who are shaping and challenging the deep power of communication. If you’re working to become a more inclusive and thoughtful communicator, there’s nothing holding you back—except you.
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