Our opinion: Moving forward

Eric Barron has been given the job of walking through a room filled with flying bullets.

Yes, he has his head down.

For those unfamiliar with the name, he is the new president of the Pennsylvania State University, an educational institution about which more has been written about its legal problems borne of a sexual abuse scandal than virtually any other aspect of its programs.

So, when he appeared before several dozen business leaders and government folks at the Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon, he shied away from the usual topics – a restive board of trustees and the continuing saga of the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

He has his head down for two reasons: He’s ducking those old bullets and he’s working his way resolutely toward a goal of putting the future in front of one of the nation’s largest universities and the past behind it.

Instead, he touched on an aspect of Penn State’s educational program – yes, it has one, a very good one, though you don’t hear much about it – that he would like to build on.

Specifically, he wanted to talk about new ways to connect students and their innovations with prospective mentors, even investors, in the business world.

After all, what good is a great idea if it stops at the idea stage?

Higher education has taken it on the chin for being out of touch with the world outside of academia, for wasting students’ time and tuition on curricula that is worthwhile only for someone who’s goal is a spot on Jeopardy!

There is great work and great research going on in our nation’s institutions of higher learning, and PSU ranks near the top of that list.

Barron, to his credit, is aiming to extend PSU’s relevance to commerce and industry. He’s embarked on this mission, and other worthwhile academic pursuits, in an effort to move Penn State out of the quagmire of scandal and into the kind of future it deserves.