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In an economic free fall, learning must connect to a salary and survival.

With heroes running colleges and universities, leadership can address the impact of pandemics and economic free fall on students — and the communities they serve. Three-headed hydras fail at this.


This fifteen-part series introduces you to the heroic partners you and your community will require to survive and thrive during pandemics and economic disruptions. The articles also provide tips on avoiding the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Your Higher Education Leaders

Institutions of higher learning have an incredible potential to become engines for ending health disparities and advocates for building local capacity to ensure surviving and thriving services. Academics fully understand the social determinants of health and how environments impact all our lives growing up. Heroes walk the halls of every campus.

We are awash in data, research and multi-million dollar special community projects controlled by higher education. Are our colleges and universities positioned to become an engine for community capacity-building that prepares us for public health challenges? This is a question for all those running, working in and attending institutions of higher learning.

All colleges and universities are led by people with a mandate to provide a quality education that will lead to jobs, careers and meaningful skills for graduates to navigate a complex world. College and university leaders are committed to the health of their students. Building a relationship with college and university leadership is a vital component of a comprehensive county strategy to ensure the services for surviving and thriving for all county residents.

We need to be reaching out to department heads who are training our future health care providers, educators, city planners, and social workers could mean many things in our post-pandemic world. Professors can be developing curricula that addresses the consequences of health and education disparities, explores the lack of crisis-readiness within local government, and teaches how to build a data-driven, and tech-empowered countywide system of care based on evidence-informed strategies.

In our best case scenario, a college or university president meets with a city mayor, city council members, county commissioners and school board members regularly to create a powerful coordinated body, all focused on promoting health equity and economic stability across a county, region and state.

We need a data-driven statewide network of higher ed (with a new level of unprecedented collaboration)

Our college and university leaders can harness the power of their institutions to end disparities and social adversity that can derail students. We envision colleges and universities as centers for innovation both on and off campus, eradicating the root causes of a long list of health, safety and education challenges.

We do not lack for highly committed and socially-engaged, community-minded experts in higher education who represent a wealth of knowledge and can serve as advisors to any initiative that focuses on campus-wide and county-wide health, safety and resilience.

Connecting higher ed to one higher purpose

There are approximately 4,000 private and public colleges in the US, and about 3,000 counties. When we do the math, it’s clear we can see how easy it would be to attach one institution of higher learning to each county to work toward the goal of degree programs aligned with the future job market. Campuses could also be centers for community empowerment and enrichment during economic disruptions.

How to connect and collaborate with college and university leadership

Systems change requires that we reach out to the college and university presidents and department heads. We believe that engagement is not only possible but mandatory.

Collaboration between higher education and the movement to ensure surviving and thriving services will mean reaching out to colleagues who may know college staff. With a good introduction to the right person, a relationship can grow. In a perfect world, all local higher education staff would be on your email list, provided with monthly updates on progress and given an invite to join groundbreaking work with the 100% Community initiative.

As for connecting with education leaders, you will most likely wish to start with who you know, or who your friends and colleagues know. A university website may reveal people in positions who appear as potential collaborators and allies. Our experience on campus has been that there are many engaged staff seeking to support public health and social justice issues, which includes confronting social adversity. The challenge is to link your perfect innovation to that of an as yet unmet university partner.

Bottom line

College and university presidents and their leadership teams are positioned to have a vital role in addressing health disparities and strengthening local systems of safety and health. In this brave new world of pandemics and economic disruptions, we need the collective wisdom of higher education.

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Any questions? The future awaits:

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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