President, Webster University
Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble was named President of Webster University in 2009. She leads Webster University’s mission as a worldwide institution transforming students for individual excellence and global citizenship. She has expanded partnerships locally and globally has strengthened the university’s reach and impact in the 60 cities, eight countries, and four continents students call home. Dr. Stroble has received numerous awards for leadership, community relations and international development. Stroble received her doctorate in curriculum studies from the University of Virginia. Her career includes academic and administrative appointments at the University of Akron, the University of Louisville, and Northern Arizona University.
Rahul-Webster is celebrating its Centennial anniversary and working towards the Global Impact for the Next Century strategic plan. Could you please share what would be your strategic priorities for next five years on global dimensions of the university?
Beth- In 1915, the Sisters of Loretto founded Webster University as one of the first colleges west of the Mississippi River to provide bachelor’s degrees for women. Throughout our history, Webster has evolved and innovated to meet students’ needs. As an independent, co-educational nonprofit university, Webster currently serves over 20,000 students in 8 countries on 4 continents. Our mission is to ensure high quality learning experiences that transform students for global citizenship and individual excellence.
As we close our first century, our new strategic plan, Global Impact for the Next Century, extends our pioneering, capacity-building commitment to academic and operational excellence. We have established international residential campuses; achieved dual U.S. and international accreditations; developed a global citizenship curriculum; facilitated mobility of faculty, staff, and students among our global network; and forged strategic worldwide partnerships.
Next we will place priority on integrating, articulating, and leveraging Webster’s network in a sustainable manner. As a truly global university, we will provide transformative learning experiences that prepare all the members of our worldwide community to lead as global citizens. We will achieve impact via:
· Global innovation through inclusive leadership
· A global student-centered experience
· A network of academic and operational excellence
· Strategic and sustainable development.
Rahul-Webster already offers several online programs. How has the pace and change in technology-enabled or online learning models influenced the future global engagement strategies at Webster, especially related to infrastructure-heavy international campuses?
Beth- For over 40 years, Webster has offered part-time master’s degrees onsite at metropolitan locations and military bases to help working adults and service members advance in their careers. Since 1999, as many service members were deployed far from home bases, Webster created fully online web-based programs for these students and adult learners. Webster currently offers more than 25 fully online graduate degrees, 5 undergraduate degree completion options, 2 undergraduate programs and a growing number of certificate programs.
As Webster keeps pace with change, we optimize engagement through robust technologies and culturally-acute campuses. We create hybrid courses—partially online offerings that culminate in short-term international study—and add video to course delivery. Traditional residential students and graduate students who value small classes, schedule flexibility and convenience create demand for new online offerings and constantly-evolving technical course delivery. Webster creates impact through the global community by investing in physical presence and global connectivity. A global Wide Area Network (WAN) and video-enhanced classrooms at key locations help to enable the synchronous teaching of classes across geographies and cultures. We embed our presence in local communities campus by campus and originate teaching and interactions from globally dispersed campuses to build a global community.
Rahul-If you have to distill your extensive university leadership experience into top two lessons to succeed as a global higher education institution, what would they be?
Beth-In my experience, success as a global higher education institution requires that we adopt mission-focused strategies for meeting the needs of those we educate and the communities we serve. We do this through a global mindset that welcomes immersion in new ways of living and thinking, an education that opens up our world and opens the world to us. I contrast this premise of global education with a “missionary” viewpoint, that of exporting an American worldview, or an “imperial” perspective that aims to plant the institutional flag at international branches for the benefit of the home campus. To be successfully global requires a systemic integration of programs, services, scholarship, student and employee talent, operations, and engagement among and with members of a global community.
Intentionally developing globally diverse and inclusive talent at all levels of the institution facilitates needed leadership that is distributed across individuals and the global community. Smart teams depend upon diversity of thought and experience among team members. Complementary strengths and talents among individuals build the strength of a team. For a university that aspires to global impact, a diversity of lived experiences among leaders and team members is essential.