A New American University: The New Gold Standard Next


Economic Exigencies: Embracing Opportunity

At one time the foundational elements of the Arizona economy were cattle, cotton, copper, citrus, and climate. But in this era of rapid advances in knowledge, in a knowledge-driven economy, the key to economic development is economic diversification. Diversification is only possible with the presence of an educated work force—with the presence of what one cultural observer has termed a “creative class.”

In a recent study, Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of regional economic development, describes the emergence of a new social sector—more than 30 percent of the national work force—comprised of artists, musicians, writers, designers, architects, engineers, scientists, and others for whom creativity is an essential dimension of their livelihood. In this usage, creativity is a driving force in the growth of the economy, and almost without exception, I assume that education is a key determinant to inclusion in the occupations that comprise this group.

I think of members of the creative class as knowledge workers—in the arts and humanities, in the sciences and technology, in the professions, in business, industry, and government. There is a demonstrable correlation between the availability of knowledge workers in a local economy and its success. Knowledge workers comprise the educated and flexible work force that will allow a diversified economy in Arizona to flourish in the decades ahead.

A striking example is the economic growth associated with science and technology. Every year 60 to 75 percent of economic growth is driven by technological advances, and since 1990, nearly all major technological advances have been driven by fundamental academic scientific discovery. Universities produce the knowledge workers that drive the economy. If Arizona is to thrive, it must support institutions that promote the emergence of a strong class of knowledge workers.

Arizona must be a place where upward mobility over successive generations—call it the American dream—is still possible. Our K-12 school districts and community colleges play a fundamental role in the task of producing an educated work force, a work force that makes upward mobility possible. Our research universities must collaborate with our school districts and community colleges, and I see ASU as a driving force in this collaboration.

Our responsibility to our students begins long before they arrive on campus, and I want ASU to be an influence in their lives long after they have graduated. As I hope to make clear today, I also want ASU to be an influence in the lives of all those in our community—not only those who are part of our academic community.

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