Friday after “Welcome To The Majors,” our guest speaker Robert Stephens did an Exchange with me at a lunch in front of about 100 business and community leaders. Given Robert’s background with Geek Squad and Best Buy, I asked him about the future of bricks and mortar retail. His response: “Amazon and the Internet will kill mediocre retail. Great bricks and mortar retail will do just fine because people want a shopping experience, especially when they don’t know exactly what they want. The Internet is for people who know exactly what they want. (I am paraphrasing here a bit.)
I then asked him if there was a lesson in this for higher education as well. He nodded and responded that the Internet will kill mediocre education too. Robert noted that when he went to the University of Minnesota, he wanted to be taught by that crazy haired old guy wearing a tweed jacket whose provocative ideas made you think. Instead he got a graduate student in a class of 400 who had trouble communicating with his audience. Robert dropped out.
He pursued Geek Squad instead, ironically on the advice of one of his professors who told him that the university wasn’t going anywhere and that he could always come back if things didn’t work out. That professor now works at UCF. His name is Dr. Peter Hancock. They had coffee together before the event and Peter was in the audience during Welcome To The Majors. Small World.
Even in what was a disappointing experience for Robert overall, a bond between a student and faculty member stuck. I couldn’t help but wonder what course Robert’s life might have taken if he had met more Peter Hancocks while in school. But, I didn’t wonder at all about what’s going to happen to higher education if it doesn’t figure out how to give more students more opportunities to build relationships like Robert and Peter’s. That Internet really is a killer…