One of the most important qualities of a leader is intellectual flexibility. Also called cognitive flexibility, it is the “ability to assess and adapt to changing circum¬stances rapidly, draw inferences and conclusions, and utilize multiple creative solu¬tions.” This ability to adjust on the fly is often the difference between success and failure, whether one is ambushed while leading troops in a war zone, or one’s Power¬Point presentation to a corporate board of directors shuts down suddenly due to a computer glitch.
Every year, institutions of higher education are affected by myriad changes beyond their control: shifting demographics, economic downturns, modifications in federal financial aid, fluctuations in the workforce, and lightning-fast advances in technolo¬gy. Everything from natural disasters to bad press can negatively impact a university’s finances, policies, needs, and admissions index.
Since college administrators cannot control these vicissitudes, it is my job, as Norwich University’s president, to adjust to them. In today’s world, a university must be willing and able to explore any and all new methods of teaching and learning to keep pace in this rapidly changing world. Just like an investment portfolio, diversifi¬cation is the key to sustainability over the long term.
Fortunately for Norwich, pioneering advances in education is our legacy. In the days of Captain Alden Partridge, innovations such as experiential learning and phys¬ical education, radical for the time, were the norm at the American Literary, Scientif¬ic, and Military Academy. So it is no surprise that Norwich was among the first schools to develop a robust distance-learning educational platform, whereby students could complete the bulk of their coursework online with minimal residency requirements.
Launched in 1997 with the introduction of the master of diplomacy and military science, Norwich’s slate of online programs has grown to include thirteen master’s programs and six undergraduate degree-completion programs. In addition, the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS) offers continuing education via four cer¬tificate-granting courses and a variety of ongoing enrichment opportunities for pro-fessionals, as well as leadership training through the Leadership and Change Institute.
One of Norwich’s most successful innovations ever, CGCS is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its inception this June. And even though hundreds of other universities now offer online education, CGCS remains one of the most respected and sought-after schools in the world. We currently boast around 8,000 alumni, including Naval Air Systems Command’s first woman flag officer, C. J. Jaynes M’08, Medal of Honor recipient CSO Ed Byers, and world-renowned author, speaker, and human-rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam MacKay ’11.
Many of our baccalaureate-degree alumni have gone on to earn one or more master’s degrees from Norwich. If you have not visited the CGCS website lately, you will be astonished at the depth and breadth of offerings. Maybe there is something there that will help you adjust to the unexpected changes in your life or career, making you a better leader.
Richard W. Schneider
RADM, USCGR (RET.)