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The Antelope

Carter discusses future of Nebraska universities

KOSUKE YOSHII / ANTELOPE STAFF NU President Ted Carter spoke at the Warner Lecture Series in the Miriam Drake Theater.

Members of the UNK community gathered in the Miriam Drake Theater for the Warner Lecture Series last week. The College of Arts and Sciences hosted the event and welcomed University of Nebraska President Ted Carter to campus as the main speaker.

This year’s topic was “Higher Education in the 21st Century.”

“This is a topic that I care passionately about,” Carter said. “And to be part of the Warner family by name in this lecture series is really a distinct honor.”

The Warner Lecture series was launched in 2017 to commemorate state senators Charles Warner and his son Jerome Warner, who both played significant roles in UNK’s history. The Chancellor’s Office and the College of Arts and Sciences funded the event.

“These lectures aren’t designed to have opposition,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, who introduced Carter. “They’re designed to talk about the important issues affecting Nebraska today and today is clearly one of those days.”

Prior to being the NU system’s eighth president, Carter served as the superintendent at the U.S. Naval Academy for five years. Alongside his extensive military experience, he was also the president of the United States Naval War College.

Before diving in, Carter examined historical events and the affordability and accessibility of college has changed. 

Some consistent goals were to even out the gender ratio at universities, encourage women in STEM fields and welcome students of all backgrounds.

The demographics changed in the course of the pandemic.

 “We do have some big challenges, and because of those drops in these changes, and significant change — what’s happening in the demographics of our country,” Carter said. “People are underrepresented not just here in the state of Nebraska but nationwide. They’re actually being left behind.”

Carter mentioned automated machines replacing jobs and the younger generations turning toward trade jobs instead of college degrees. In the meantime, UNK’s eCampus has grown significantly. 

Some of these challenges stem from the pandemic.

Ted Carter said that distrust in officials has grown during the pandemic. 

 “There’s certainly distrust in somebody like me or Chancellor Doug Kristensen in telling you what we shouldn’t be doing, what we look like and why you should go to college at this university because that’s kind of where we are right,” Carter said. “Now, we’ve got to get through that.”

While students recover from the pandemic, Carter said he also wanted to help students improve their mental health.

“This is real, and the sooner we get to it and destigmatize it and work on it and make that available to students, as well as our faculty and staff, the better chance we have at having a healthier life,” Carter said.

Carter offered three concepts to change the 21st century.

The first step he gave was for the university leaders to “own the problem,” be accountable, analyze problems with metrics and change their behavior. The next step was to push for students to graduate after four years, and finally, for the NU system to only ask the unicameral for money that is needed.

In the end, Carter urged the UNK community to approach university life in the 21st century with “innovation, innovation, innovation.”

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