Applying Anthropology and Business Leadership to Education

In the education arena, both Andrew and Andrea Simon have extensive experience applying their approach as anthropologists and business consultants to problem-solving. Over the past decade, SAMC has worked with many educational institutions as well as with the college alliances in Oregon, Indiana and Michigan and the national organization, The Council of Independent Colleges.

From our perspectives, higher education institutions are challenged by their resistance to change. The times are demanding a much more talented workforce. Industry wants individuals who can communicate, collaborate, coordinate and create — and perhaps code, as well. Universities and colleges have ignored the shift to a knowledge worker and their needs. Now, these institutions of higher education are facing a market that is finding other ways to get the training and degrees they need in ways that are more mobile, flexible and affordable and over their entire lifetime.

Our job is to help these institutions re-invent themselves before they have a crisis.

Regardless of size or status, educational institutions are facing similar hurdles.

What we have seen is that as the place of higher education in the U.S. has been changing, quite dramatically, colleges have stayed trapped in their old ways of doing things. In particular, we see:

• Organizations that tried to compete with others just like them and became entangled in what we call their Bloody Red Ocean. They are in markets with too much competition, abundant options and declining numbers of traditional students. Pressures from faculty for more salaries compete with students seeking lower costs, both of which are leading to facilities that lack the investments to stay modern and appropriate.

• They positioned themselves in ways that the market just never accepted. They wanted to be a premier small college catering to high-end affluent students. The students thought they were a small college without adding anything of value beyond a degree.

• Too often they come to us looking for “hope.” But they have missed the opportunities that came along earlier — from online students to interdisciplinarity; from capturing non-traditional students to partnerships with industry to support their educational needs.

Our job is to help these educational institutions step back and realize what has been happening all around them. The times have been changing. Now, they need to “see, feel and think” in new ways so they can, once again find purpose and promise for their institutions.

A few stories to share might illustrate the challenges

Centenary College of New Jersey. Centenary College’s previous efforts to become known as a small, elite, liberal arts college had stalled its growth. It was indeed, an excellent college but one whose excellence was in teaching teachers. As part of SAMC’s turn-around process, we used a highly integrated approach which included building the college’s website and working with recruiting officers to tailor the right story. As a result, we were able to watch enrollment return to capacity — with a waiting list — after just four years of working together. They are a chapter in our award-winning book, “On the Brink: A fresh lens to take your business to new heights.”

You can listen to Ken Hoyt, the former president of Centenary College discuss his journey with us on our podcast:

Seeing, Feeling and Thinking About Colleges In A Whole New Way With Ken Hoyt

Monroe College. We worked with the for-profit Monroe College for several years to help them open new markets in areas where the administration had been unable to penetrate successfully. Some of these were in New York City divisions that had both a need and the money to support the education of their employees.

Delaware Valley University. For Delaware Valley University, we have helped them develop their strategic plan using the tools of corporate anthropology and Blue Ocean Strategy. DelVal, located in Doylestown, PA, is a beautiful university with a significant focus on Agriculture, the Life Sciences, and programs that capitalized on its commitment to experiential learning. When we began to work with them, they were focused on finding more traditional students. Almost 48% of the students in college today are adults, over the age of 24. That meant that DelVal was ignoring half the potential market. Without any robust online courses or technical training for employed professionals or those in agriculture they were hampering their growth just because “that isn’t the way we have done it here.”

Our Approach

As you can see, our approach is designed to help your organization step back and look at the possibilities all around you. We do not have our recommendations. We have a process that enables you to redesign your institution. Perhaps we can be of help to you.

Speaking of Speaking

Dr. Andrea Simon has been a keynote speaker discussing innovation and change at the Michigan College Alliance’s annual meetings. She also ran Blue Ocean Strategy workshops to help them identify unmet needs.

Click on the image below to watch Andi Simon’s talk to the Michigan College Alliance about Blue Ocean Strategy for colleges:

Andi Simon Anthropologist
Andi Simon’s Keynote and Blue Ocean Workshop at the Michigan College Alliance

Some Additional Reading

SAMC continues to publish and speak on the need for universities to change as new external factors impact this market. Among these challenges is that recognition that, with the cost of a higher education degree, there is pressure for increasing the return on investment for a college education.

Our Experience

Andrew (Andy) Simon has extensive experience and expertise in the K-12 assessment sector. He has become highly recognized for taking a series of start-ups and turn-around situations to successive stages of development. He was the founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Questar Assessment, Inc., a K-12 summative assessment company that was voted one of 2011’s top 50 innovative companies by Education Next. Questar was sold to ETS in 2017. Andy remains heavily committed to bringing better educational programs to schools across the country. One area he finds to have particular value is the application of the “Build a Better Budget” game to schools and districts to demonstrate how community engagement in a gaming platform can help build bridges between schools and the communities they serve.

Andrea (Andi) Simon, Ph.D.  served as a tenured professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ and a Visiting Professor at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, teaching entrepreneurship to Arts and Science undergraduates. She works widely with independent colleges and with state college alliances.

We would be delighted to discuss our unique, proven approach with you. Contact us.