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The Fifth Wave

The Evolution of American Higher Education

America's research universities lead the world in discovery, creativity, and innovation—but are captive to a set of design constraints that no longer aligns with the changing needs of society. Their commitment to discovery and innovation, which is carried out largely in isolation from the socioeconomic challenges faced by most Americans, threatens to impede the capacity of these institutions to contribute decisively and consistently to the collective good. The global preeminence of our leading institutions, moreover, does not correlate with overall excellence in American higher education. Sadly, admissions practices that flatly exclude the majority of academically qualified applicants are now the norm in our leading universities, both public and private.

In The Fifth Wave, Michael M. Crow and William B. Dabars argue that colleges and universities need to be comprehensively redesigned in order to educate millions more qualified students while leveraging the complementarities between discovery and accessibility. Building on the themes of their prior collaboration, Designing the New American University, this book examines the historical development of American higher education—the first four waves—and describes the emerging standard of institutions that will transform the field. What must emerge in this Fifth Wave of universities, Crow and Dabars posit, are institutions that are responsive to the needs of students, focused on access, embedded in their regions, and committed to solving global problems.

The Fifth Wave in American higher education, Crow and Dabars write, comprises an emerging league of colleges and universities that aspires to accelerate positive social outcomes through the seamless integration of world-class knowledge production with cutting-edge technological innovation. This set of institutions is dedicated to the advancement of accessibility to the broadest possible demographic that is representative of the socioeconomic and intellectual diversity of our nation. Recognizing the fact that both cooperation and competition between universities is essential if higher education hopes to truly serve the needs of the nation, Fifth Wave schools like Arizona State University are already beginning to spearhead a network spanning academia, business and industry, government agencies and laboratories, and civil society organizations.

Drawing from a variety of disciplines, including design, economics, public policy, organizational theory, science and technology studies, sociology, and even cognitive psychology and epistemology, The Fifth Wave is a must-read for anyone concerned with the future of higher education in our society.

About the Authors

Michael M. Crow has served as the president of Arizona State University since 2002. He was formerly the executive vice provost at Columbia University and a professor of science and technology policy. William B. Dabars is the senior director of research for the New American University in the Office of the President and an associate research professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. Crow and Dabars are the coauthors of Designing the New American University.

Endorsements

"Michael M. Crow is one of a handful of the most creative and able presidents of any American university. I consider any new book that he produces to be an important event. The Fifth Wave should be read by academic, business, and governmental leaders, especially those who have a stake in the continued preeminence of the great research universities—and their future structures—in the United States."

- Jonathan R. Cole, Columbia University, author of The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected

"In a perfect world, we would clone Michael Crow, so every university would have the same advantage as Arizona State University. Until that happens, The Fifth Wave is our next best option."

- Malcolm Gladwell

"As social and technological complexity accelerates, progress and adaptation are driven by waves of change in all sectors. The advent of the interconnected estate empowers citizens but has brought the imperative for broad access to scientific and technological literacy. The Fifth Wave envisioned by Michael Crow tackles this challenge and moreover assumes responsibility not only for knowledge production but societal wellbeing. In this compelling assessment of the prospects for evolution in American higher education, Crow and William Dabars delineate the parameters of a league of colleges and universities that will scale advanced learning to maximize innovation and societal impact."

- Eric Schmidt, Technical Advisor, Alphabet Inc.

"The modern American university is a fountainhead of knowledge, a privileged gatekeeper, and an exorbitant money sink. Updating this vital institution for the 21st century is a major challenge, and no one is better placed to show us the way than Michael Crow and William Dabars. Crow is a magician who exploded conventional tradeoffs and made his university both intellectually stellar and inspiringly inclusive."

- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now

"The Fifth Wave is a plan for building out a research-grade higher education infrastructure proportionate to the task of educating every academically qualified applicant in America. Its ambition is to democratize intelligence. Radically redesigned, these schools would be purpose-built to educate the next generation, by the millions, at socially meaningful scale."

- David G. Bradley, Chairman, Atlantic Media

"Provocative, encompassing, and grounded, this book is a blueprint for learning that is authentic to the twenty-first century, a time perhaps better characterized as the age of entanglement rather than the age of enlightenment. Unique to this model is the idea of the university as a network of practices and institutions not bounded geographically or politically. John Dewey would be smiling to see how his ideas, including democracy, have evolved for this new age of entanglement."

- John Seely Brown, co-author of Design Unbound: Designing for Emergence in a White Water World

"The Fifth Wave recognizes the urgent need for our public universities to get off the sidelines and engage seriously with the world. Michael Crow and William Dabars make a powerful case for the powerful good that universities can accomplish if academia is bold enough to reconsider how its unique strengths can contribute to a more equitable, sustainable, and informed future."

- Ana Mari Cauce, president, University of Washington

"Michael C. Crow is redefining the way research universities engage with society. In The Fifth Wave, Crow and William B. Dabars call upon us to imagine a new era in American higher education where accessible institutions are dedicated to solving global problems through technological innovation, social entrepreneurship, and world-class knowledge production. All those with a stake in the future of higher education would benefit greatly from reading this book."

- Arthur C. Brooks, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School, author of The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America

"In The Fifth Wave: The Evolution of American Higher Education, Michael Crow and William Dabars argue persuasively that a league of universities committed to broad access to world-class knowledge production can deliver both success for individuals and the economic competitiveness of our nation. This is recommended reading for those interested in preparing for the complexities that lie ahead."

- Steve Case, Chairman/CEO, Revolution, author of The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur's Vision of the Future

"In The Fifth Wave, Michael Crow and William Dabars propose a new model for American universities. Their delineation of the history and evolution of American colleges and universities and their discussion of issues facing these institutions highlight the significance and gravity of these issues as well as the substantial contributions that research universities make to society."

- Robert Zimmer, President, University of Chicago
Johns Hopkins University Press
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Designing the New American University

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