Interview with Eric Fingerhut – Education Expert
I first met Eric Fingerhut in his role as Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. Eric was interested in branding the University System of Ohio as a strategy to increase global awareness of the largest public University system in the United States. In the first few minutes of our discussion I realized that Eric is a leader who really “gets it”. I was very impressed with Eric’s vision to leverage higher education as a direct catalyst for economic development. To that end, Eric led the design and implementation of a master agreement between the member institutions of the University System of Ohio and the private sector to facilitate the path to commercialization of technology innovations. And to ensure a robust pipeline of research initiatives for the private sector to license, Eric led the creation of the Ohio Centers of Excellence. Eric is a leader with a clear vision of the direction our nation needs to take in order to strengthen the competitiveness of Brand America, and the important enabling role of education. I knew Eric would also have a perspective on Brand America’s promise worth sharing. I believe you will find this interview with Eric both thought-provoking and inspirational.
- Question: How would you articulate Brand America’s promise?
Brand America’s promise is that each individual can pursue his or her own direction in life. Americans create their own definitions of success and establish their own identities. Americans are free to start over, change direction or rethink our lives as many times as we wish. We believe in creating opportunities for ourselves, not waiting for them to come to us, and we know that when we create opportunities for ourselves we are creating them for others as well. American society is not a zero sum game with winners and losers, but an expanding pie with room for all.
- Question: What are the challenges that Brand America must address to consistently be seen as "walking the talk"?
We must always want other countries and peoples to share in the same opportunity as we have as Americans. We cannot view success in other countries as a problem for us, any more than we view the success of one American as hurting another American. We must therefore be an open and welcoming society, and support such openness elsewhere. When we fail to do so, it tarnishes brand America, supporting a charge of hypocrisy.
- Question: What are the traits of Brand America that people around the world are likely to find appealing?
Closely associated with the opportunity to pursue individual paths to success is the remarkable openness, diversity, accessibility and affordable of the American education system, particularly higher education. There is literally a college and a program of study to meet every interest and every learning style. There are no quotas and no barriers that keep someone from gaining the knowledge and skills to pursue their dreams. The pursuit of new knowledge through basic and applied research, and the protection of intellectual property that lets the people who create knowledge enjoy the fruits of their creativity, are assets that we take for granted but are not in fact enjoyed across the globe. These should be a major attraction for talented, ambitious, self-confident people to come to America and participate in its open and upwardly mobile society.
- Question: What are the different ways Brand America can keep its promise?
We should view our colleges and universities as a cornerstone of our economic development strategy. Colleges and universities are magnets that collect in one location large and diverse groups of people with intellectual curiosity and drive. They are exploring their subject matter, pushing the limits of their talent, and envisioning the future for themselves and their communities. We should make our higher education system a highlight of our appeal to the world.
- Question: What is the importance of Brand America in the world?
The importance of the brand is not only its uplifting, individual appeal to those who seek upward mobility, but that we have demonstrated our ability to maintain that promise over the long haul. This is not a “Prague Spring” that will soon be crushed and therefore is not worthy of the risk of coming to join us. This is an established brand – the gold standard of individual liberty and freedom.
- Question: Who benefits from a strengthened Brand America?
Established Americans and those who take us up on the promise to come join us.
- Question: Do you believe Brand America has a relevant, competitive and authentic promise?