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January 16, 2014

Evans speaks to Rotarians about LU business model

PORT ARTHUR — When Kenneth Evans began his tenure as president of Lamar University in Beaumont on July 1, 2013, he suggested the tagline “Recognizing our legacy, inventing our future.”

“The reality is that what our future is going to look like is going to be a very different future than the one that's populated the present and the past,” Evans told Port Arthur Rotarians at their weekly meeting on Thursday, at the Holiday Inn.

Lamar University has gotten a jump on that future by increasing its online education opportunities. The university, which sees nearly 5,000 online students per semester, staked its claim to virtual education early, Evans said.

“The online piece of our business model is a big deal,” Evans said. “We were able to establish a flag in the ground and own a chunk in the market before a large number of follow-up competitors began trying to grab a piece of the marketure.”

With the days traditional face-to-face learning becoming numbered, Evans said that a hybrid of on-campus and online is proving effective for most students.

“Research now tells us that the combination of face to face and online is ideal,” he said. “So we’re looking at opportunities to use technology enhancement more in a classroom contest so students can take face to face and be able to almost replicate it.”

Online education is a powerful tool, and accessible to more non-traditional students, Evans said. He added that online participation is dramatically greater in an online class because the student is guaranteed confidentiality.

Since Evans took the reins at Lamar, the university has changed its management system to a business model — which makes Evans, who previously served as dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma, the ideal person to be at the helm.

“We make decisions in the context of the interest of the business, while remaining mission-centric,” Evans said. “Higher education is an industry.”

Another change Evans spoke of was establishing an innovation center at Lamar, which would offer technologically advanced services to commercial IT and government industries. However, he said, the success of this — as well as future business endeavors — depends on the community.

“We have to rely on a community interested in taking business ideas and finding a safe harbor for them in an environment where we can provide support both in terms of campus expertise as well as facility access,” he said.

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA

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