Institute for Entrepreneurial Life Sciences coming to STEM

By Keanu Austin

Applied research is on the horizon for the New Jersey Center for Science, Technology & Mathematics, which Kean President Dawood Farahi plans to introduce to the university in an innovative way.

“We don’t have the resources to be a major player in basic research,” Farahi said during a board of trustees meeting on March 3. “But we have the capacity to be a good and reasonable player in innovative, entrepreneurial applied research.”

Keith Bostian, dean of the NJCSTM, took the floor to give an overview of the upcoming Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurism.

“This is a non-profit regional research institute that we’re in the process of setting up here on the campus of Kean University to serve the entrepreneurial life-science needs of the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania region,” Bostian said.

Shortly after arriving at Kean in October, Bostian formed a planning committee of leading researchers and entrepreneurs, who have worked on preparing the business plan and raising seed capital.

“We’ve been meeting almost every two weeks since mid-December,” Bostian said. “[We] developed the concept and laid the groundwork for establishing the institute.”

Earlier in the meeting, Farahi emphasized a need for Kean to distinguish itself, which the research institute is supposed to help accomplish.

“For the students, the institute will create opportunities for internships and independent studies both in science and business,” Bostian said. “For the university, the institute will bring distinction and will promote applied research.”

Distinguishing Kean is part of an effort to keep a leg up on the competition, especially online competition.

“Don’t take the competition from online entities lightly,” Farahi said during the meeting. “In 2000, there was 9 percent of the higher education business online. Today, it’s closer to 30 percent.”

By 2020, Farahi continued, it is estimated that 50 percent of the for-profit and non-profit higher education business will be online. The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a higher education research unit, released a report in 2013 concerning what higher education will look like in 2020.

“There is justified concern that on-campus teaching at mid-tier institutions will be gradually supplanted by online lectures,” the report states. “It is likely that many thousands of teaching jobs…will have been lost in the US by 2020.”

According to the report’s executive summary, the report’s horizon scan was based on interviews, the unit’s extrapolation of current trends in international higher education and public discourse regarding said trends.

“It is very difficult for us to be competitive in that market,” Farahi told the meeting’s audience. “Many people on campus stop me and say, ‘When are we going to go fully online?’”

Having most of Kean’s students take their classes online, Farahi said, offers no advantage.

“We need to go to online by creating a new market,” Farahi said. “And to do that, we need to create hybrid programs. And we’re going to try that with China.”

Hybrid programs combine in-class and online learning, and fewer than 2 percent of Kean’s courses were offered in an online or hybrid format, according to a draft of the university’s 2012 enrollment management plan.

The management plan, which includes strategies, rationales, and objectives for Kean from fall 2011 to fall 2020, was written by the university’s former office of assessment director, LaMont Rouse.

In the management plan, among the objectives for the university is a significant increase in hybrid learning opportunities.

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