Creating the Great University

"sum, ergo cogito"

© John N. Warfield, 1996


The Wandwaver Solution: Abstract
Appendix 1. Contributions of the "Colleagues of Inheritance"
Appendix 2. Contributions of the "Active Colleagues"
Appendix 3. Four Books that Summarize the Scientific Basis
Appendix 4. Wandwaver Intellectual Resources
Appendix 5. The Ralph Barton Perry Model of Education
Appendix 6. The Harold Lasswell Model of Design, Decision, and Learning (DDL) Environments
Appendix 7. Partial Organization Chart for the Great University (a transparency)
Appendix 8. Key Attributes of the Great University (a transparency)
Appendix 9. Seven Ways to Portray Complexity
Appendix 10. The University Observatorium
Appendix 11. The Horizons College (a set of transparencies)
Appendix 12. The Demosophia Design Environment
Appendix 13. Some Relevant Prior Educational Outcomes
Appendix 14. Eight Criteria for Involving Situational Complexity in Higher Education
Appendix 15. The Study of Complexity
Appendix 16. The Great University in Action
Appendix 17. Announcing a New (Informal) Publication:Education Writings by Warfield (1968- 1996)
Appendix 18. Potential Obstacles to Marketing the Wandwaver Solution to Universities
Appendix 19. The Wandwaver Solution (a transparency)
Appendix 20. The Wandwaver Programs (a transparency)
Appendix 21. The Wandwaver Challenges (a transparency)
Appendix 22. Demands of Complexity on Higher Education (a transparency)
Appendix 23. The Linked Triad of Objectives Awaiting Integration (a transparency)
Appendix 24. The Three Principal Educational Operating Units of the Great University (a transparency)
Appendix 25. Biosketches of Key Individuals
About the author



John N. Warfield(2)

The Wandwaver Solution is a proposal and an unbudgeted plan for revolutionary change in the university (as an instrument of higher education around the world). While the change is revolutionary in scope, it can be achieved through well-defined, well-tested evolutionary processes, which minimize the costs of transformation while still carrying out essential functions.

The processes of change may require about five years to reach fruition. They are comprehensive. They involve all parts of the existing institution. To carry them out, new high-level functional units are required. These are the "University Observatorium" and the "Process Leadership Division", both of which will be administered from the office of the President.

Most existing educational programs will continue to exist, but their practices and administration may change. One major new college will be created, called the Horizons College. All professional schools will be aggregated under a single Professional College. The traditional "university college" will be the University College, largely as before, but practices may change.

The proposal for change consists of seven major subdivisions.

  • Background from Scholarship and Practice
  • Research Conclusions
  • The Wandwaver Challenges
  • The Wandwaver Vision
  • The Wandwaver Programs
  • The Wandwaver Schedule
  • The Wandwaver Benefits

Background from Scholarship and Practice.

Great thinkers from the past have studied processes of inquiry, human behavior related to thought and learning, ways of fixing belief, and pragmatic aspects of realistic outcomes in human development [Nineteen of them are identified in Appendix 1, along with their contributions].

A group of practitioners at various locations around the world tested these processes to determine the extent to which they are applicable to different situations and in different organizations and cultures [Thirteen of them are identified in Appendix 2, along with their contributions. In that same Appendix, additional (living) contributors are identified along with their contributions].

The ideas of these great thinkers have been integrated recently, i.e., amalgamated into a scientific base, and transformed into a set of systematic processes for learning and development [Four books that summarize this development are identified and outlined in Appendix 3]. It is this integration that provided the basis for the works of the practitioners identified in Appendix 2.

Much evidence exists to show that the conclusions finally reached from this work, extending over several decades, are directly applicable as key working components of the Wandwaver Solution. The evidence exists in extensive literature documentation, as well as in dozens of videotapes and reports.

Research Conclusions.

Today's university is, in some respects, very successful and, in other respects, a failure. Selective analysis and design strives to retain the best and eliminate the worst, while adding value throughout.

  • The university has great strengths, drastically misused

  • Opportunities to add value in educational practices are very large, but not recognized in existing programs

  • The image that the institution projects to the public is only slightly less than disastrous, because it is highly inaccurate and inauthentic

  • The organization of the university is remote from what is required to keep it effective as an institution

  • It thrives on platitudinous statements, unmeasurable intentions, and unjustifiable practices

  • It does virtually nothing to deal constructively with complexity in society, thereby avoiding what perhaps constitutes the major educational challenge of the present and the future

  • It does not use, in its internal operations, even those practices that it teaches its students to use when they leave the institution

  • As an institutional role model, it is a disaster, when it could be a beacon that teaches by its own practices

The best aspect of the foregoing is this: the university is a highly-leveraged institution, open to massive improvement, if it can bring itself to take advantage of the Wandwaver Solution. [To facilitate this, various intellectual resources germane to the choice are presented in Appendix 4, under a variety of headings applicable to the choice.]

The Wandwaver Challenges.

Five challenges are set forth in moving to the new institution:

  • Develop authentic referential transparency. Make the institution highly visible to all inquirers, internal and external alike, in terms of goals, programs, activities, and (especially) products

  • Become manageable. Enhance manageability in two main directions:

    • - As an organization
    • - As a manageable, integrated body of knowledge

  • Become open at scale. Break free of constraints that block inquiry related to knowledge areas caused by constraints of scale imposed by inadequate infrastructures and undesigned, unresponsive institutional processes

  • Provide a System Design Resource for Society. Expand academic program offerings into the domain of large system design [with emphasis on sociotechnical systems, following the lead established in the books described in Appendix 2], to anticipate the purposes of an increasingly complex society, whose institutions can no longer respond to the challenges of today

  • Institutionalize the Conditions that Allow the Challenges to be Met. Provide and sustain those new infrastructural and process resources that enable the challenges to be met.

The Wandwaver Vision.

The Wandwaver Vision stems from the background research, with different parts of the Vision accruing from different scholars, being integrated into a final organizational form.

The goals and objectives are largely taken from the work of Ralph Barton Perry [His work is summarized in Appendix 5, and discussed at length in the the book by Steinberg, cited there]:

  • The Primary Goal: to produce graduates who are highly-equipped to be effective citizens in a democracy

  • The First Contributory Objective (Inheritance): to enable the graduate to attain a position of knowledgeability of the inheritance from the past

  • The Second Contributory Objective (Participation): to enable the graduate to play a worthwhile role in the society of the times

  • The Third Contributory Objective (Contribution): To enable the graduate to make worthwhile contributions to the future of society

To the foregoing, stemming directly from Ralph Barton Perry, a fourth is added. This fourth objective, seen as critical in enabling society to come to grips with complexity, and seen as an essential adjunct to make the foregoing material effective is

  • The Fourth Contributory Objective (Integration): To enable the graduate to integrate the inheritance, participation, and contribution, as a citizen in a free society

Achievement of the Integration objective is attained with the aid of a collection of ideas originated by the late Harold Lasswell. Lasswell's vision, though derived from a lifetime of study of the American political scene, is readily adaptable to any arena requiring human collaboration in overcoming complexity [Appendix 6 summarizes the most essential Lasswell ideas.]

The new institution is organized, so that each of the three Colleges accepts primary responsibility for one of the first three objectives, as follows:

  • The University College: The Inheritance Objective
  • The Professional College: The Participation Objective
  • The Horizons College: The Contribution Objective
Responsibility for achieving the fourth objective is located in the office of the President, where its achievement is promoted, enabled, and enhanced by the Process Leadership Division. Moreover, the status at any time is revealed in the University Observatorium, which is maintained by the Process Leadership Division. The primary way in which the Process Leadership Division gets the integration done is through processes involving representatives of all three of the Colleges, each contributing according to its primary educational role, as described below under the title "Wandwaver Programs" [Appendix 7 shows a partial organizational chart of the Great University, arranged to fit the previous descriptions].

[With this skeleton arrangement for the organization, the key attributes of the Great University can be summarized as shown in Appendix 8.]

The Wandwaver Programs.

The Wandwaver Programs are the actions that produce change. They are an integrated set of programs, aimed at the complete revolutionary change required.

The five principal Wandwaver Programs are the following:

  1. Upgrade Knowledge Structure. Every discipline in the University College and every discipline in the Professional College will upgrade the structure of its knowledge base, with the aid of the Process Leadership Division, and the Horizons College.

    The types of products of the upgrade will be chosen from the "seven ways to portray complexity" [The seven ways found and tested to date to portray complexity are identified in Appendix 9]. Through this means, the following pattern types will be produced for every discipline:

    • Problematique: the set of problems or issues that are relevant to society, which that discipline represents in its knowledge base, showing how these are interrelated

    • Intent Structure: the set of objectives of the discipline, showing the pattern of how they are interrelated

    • Resolution Structure: the pattern that shows, superimposed on the problematique, the chosen options for resolving the problematique (possibly over a very extended period of time)

    • Such other structures as the discipline may choose

    This collection will be called the "disciplinary context" for each discipline, and will be perpetually displayed in the University Observatorium, where it will be updated as required.

  2. Provide Institutional Visibility. A dedicated building will be created and filled to become the University Observatorium. All of the programs of the University, and all of the faculty plans for the future will be represented there to the extent practical. Because of its visibility, this component will provide an "invisible hand" (a la Adam Smith) to perturb the activities of the university as seemingly required by the changing world [Additional discussion of the Observatorium is given in Appendix 10.]

  3. Provide Process Leadership. The university will maintain a group of people whose role is to provide process leadership, i.e., to design and conduct the processes needed to produce and sustain the Knowledge Structure Upgrades that are required. They will maintain the University Observatorium, and are responsible for the quality of its display resources.

    This Division must bring about the necessary group working facilities, where the processes can be carried out efficiently and effectively.

  4. Inaugurate the Horizons College. There does not now exist anything like the Horizons College in any university [Appendix 11 describes this College in more detail].

    This College must carry out design of the future, and to do so it must incorporate components of the Inheritance and it must respect current requirements of Participation. What should guide the Horizons College?

    • It should use the framework of the Work Program for Complexity as the foundation for its organization and its activities.

    • It should use the Science of Generic Design and the forthcoming book titled "THE WORK PROGRAM OF COMPLEXITY: FROM ORIGINS TO OUTCOMES" as the foundation for its learning programs.

    • It should use Interactive Management [see Appendix 3] as the methodology for organizing contexts of complex situations, and for generating designs to resolve complex situations.

    • It should continue to foster individual in-depth research within the larger contexts provided by products of Interactive Management and structural analyses.

    The Horizons College has the greatest responsibility among the Colleges for remedying the educational deficiencies associated with complexity, both within the university and in the society at large.

    The concept of this college draws heavily on ideas from a variety of scholars in different disciplines. Here are some of the most prominent contributors who are included in the more comprehensive list that appears in Appendix 1:

    Harold Lasswell--sociology, law, and political science
    Charles Sanders Peirce--philosophy and logic
    Alexander Pope--poet (An Essay on Criticism, in particular)
    Michel Foucault--philosopher (The Archaeology of Knowledge, in particular)
    Frank Harary--mathematician and graph theorist
    David Hilbert--mathematician

  5. Provide Appropriate Group Work Facilities. Faculty and students who engage in the necessary group work involved in the Knowledge Structure Upgrade and in the design work of the Horizons College require appropriate group work facilities. Such facilities have been designed, tested, and found to be very supportive for high quality work.

    Numerous group work facilities that are commercially promoted (e.g., "GroupSystems") are quite unsatisfactory. The appropriate facility is called "Demosophia" [A proposal appears in Appendix 12 which describes this facility]. A complete construction plan is available. Facilities of this type can be visited (sometimes while in use) in Dearborn, Michigan; La Jolla, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; and to some extent in other locations. Photographs of such a facility in use are available for inspection. Dozens of videotapes are available showing a diverse set of groups working in such a facility on a diverse set of problems. Included are the reactions of the groups at the conclusion of the group work.

The Wandwaver Schedule.

A nominal schedule for implementing the Wandwaver Solution is as follows:

  1. Year One. Reorganizing, Prototyping, and Completing the Plan for Change. Because the institution requires time to adjust to the changes and to determine their acceptance, only modest changes will be visible in the first year. However, it is realistic to anticipate that these events can occur:

    • Institutional acceptance of the Wandwaver Solution
    • Completion of five-year budgets for change
    • Draft of the plan for the University Observatorium
    • Appointment of principals in the Process Leadership Division
    • Appointment of the principal administrator and inauguration of the Professional College
    • Draft of a staffing plan for the Horizons College
    • Selection of one or more departments to produce prototypical Knowledge Upgrade
      patterns for those departments, accompanied by explanatory material
      suitable for field testing in a mockup of a University Observatorium space
    • Expanded development of plans for the next few years
    • Completion of this Abstract into a full plan for later years
  2. Year Two. Mounting the Integrated Program. Various activities can be initiated in parallel:

    • Expanded Knowledge Upgrade developments
    • Construction of the Demosophia facilities
    • Additional staffing for the Horizons College
    • Completion of plans for and beginning of construction of the University Observatorium (unless an existing facility can be adapted for this purpose)
    • Test classes for students using the products as they become available
  3. Years Three to Five. Completion of the changes.

The Wandwaver Benefits.

There will be many beneficiaries of the Wandwaver Solution. Some of these, and the nature of the benefits to be achieved will be described next.

    7.1 Benefits to the Incoming Students and Their Parents. The incoming student approaches the university with no useful comprehension of its programs. If the university establishes the Observatorium in the manner envisaged, a thoughtful tour through this building will given incoming students and their parents an unparallelled concept of what offerings the university has, their purpose, their connection to society, what the student might be interested in when attending college, and many other related matters.

    7.2 Benefits to Graduate Students. Graduate students will be able to learn rapidly, through the faculty-written program information available in the Observatorium, just what faculty members are doing and how any given faculty member's work relates to academic programs and external applications. This should provide an unmatched opportunity for graduate students to develop insight into what might be attractive to them as research possibilities.

    7.3 Joint Benefits to Donors and the University. Potential large donors to the university presently undergo the attention of "development" personnel, and the funds given often are not tied to what the main programs of the university might be. Many potential donors do not like the way in which their funds are sought, and would much prefer an opportunity to find their own way into areas where giving might be fruitful. The Observatorium will provide an unparallelled way for potential donors to get insight into what is going on, untainted by whatever bias might be brought to them from other sources.

    7.4 Benefits to Society as a Whole. Society suffers greatly from inadequate formulations of major policy at the various levels of government. Students who will become leaders later in life gain no experience in policy formulation, through high-quality, systematic interactions. They do not know how to represent policy so that it can be understood (applying, for example, the seven ways of portraying complexity illustrated in this document). By creating the infrastructure to support Lasswell's ideas about policy formulation and pre-legislative activity, the university can take on a new, multi-dimensional leadership role in society of the type often given lip service and, perhaps, never achieved.

    7.5 Benefits to the Faculty. In a typical university, the complexity of administering the institution often allows very bad decisions to be made that affect faculty in ways they did not anticipate, and cannot change after the fact. Anything that makes the whole institution much more visible will help faculty and administration alike to enhance greatly the way in which the institution is governed.


    1. A significant amount of supporting material is given in the numerous appendices. To avoid interrupting the textual flow, yet indicating spots where these materials are relevant, brackets are inserted in the text to point the reader to the relevant material.

    2. This work was enabled through multiple-year research support from the Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan, with special acknowledgment to Dr. Scott M. Staley of the Ford Research Laboratory. Other contributors are acknowledged at various points in this document.