Which is exactly why Hennessy decided it was time to merge his two titles to create the Knight-Hennessy Scholars. Along with billionaire Nike cofounder Phil Knight (MBA ’62), he is in the process of creating a template for what some see as the future of higher education and leadership: an interdisciplinary intellectual home that stresses collaboration.
Launching for the 2018-2019 academic year with plans for a $750 million endowment, Knight-Hennessy Scholars will be the largest fully endowed scholars program in the world. That number will fully fund the first three years of graduate education (from MBA or JD to MD or PhD – tuition plus living and academic stipend) for the up to 100 students in the program annually. Those students whose degree requirements go past three years will be funded by their departments.
The point? To cultivate a new generation of leaders across disciplines who can “creatively address the world’s thorniest problems.” Hennessy, who possesses a blend of intelligence, restless energy and humor, discusses the “holy grail” of digital education and the future of leadership, including the #MeToo and #MarchForOurLives movements.
You sit in two of the most powerful chairs in the world at Google and Stanford. What are the parallels?
I remember Eric Schmidt once saying, ‘We try to run Google as close to the way Stanford runs as a company can run,’ and I think there’s some truth in that drive. For a long time, my view has been that keeping the drive to innovation alive is the challenge that both a leading university and a leading tech company have. And not just technology companies, most companies.
Google products like Docs and Hangouts are a must-use collaborative tools for students and teachers. Will the company make a move in learning management systems or an actual digital platform?
Well, there’s certainly interest in it. We’ve learned how to do online courses that are designed for professionals who are trying to enhance their own knowledge. I just actually took Google’s Machine Learning Crash Course over the weekend. A harder problem is, can you reach further down in the curriculum? Can you reach undergraduates or even students in K-12?
In order to do that you have to have a more adaptive learning management system. You’ve got to have something which really begins to understand how students are struggling, what they don’t understand, what they do understand. And gives them the kind of guidance that a great teacher gives to students.