From Classrooms to Tech Frontiers Michael Mathews’ Melody of Knowledge and Innovation

Michael Mathews | VP for Global Learning and Innovation - Chief Information Officer | Oral Roberts University
Michael Mathews | VP for Global Learning and Innovation - Chief Information Officer | Oral Roberts University

In a world where innovation thrives, education must be prepared to embrace new ideas and technologies. This means providing students with the skills and knowledge they need to be creative problem-solvers and innovators. It also means creating a learning environment that is conducive to innovation, such as one that encourages risk-taking and collaboration.

Technology can transform lives through education by making learning more personalized, engaging, and accessible. The intersection of personizing both education and technology is where Michael Mathews emerges as a true synergetic innovator. With a profound dedication to impacting all key stakeholders through technology solutions, Michael embodies the spirit of progress and transformation.

As VP for Global Learning and Innovation at Oral Roberts University (ORU), Michael is leveraging Enterprise Applications and orchestrating technology to deliver both incremental and international improvements to how education is delivered.

At ORU, the theme for education is clear: “WHOLELEADERS- FOR-THE-WHOLE-WORLD!” Michael thrives in the ethos of ORU as they prepare students spiritually, intellectually, and physically to venture into every person’s world, armed with knowledge and innovation. His journey, from the hallowed halls of technology and innovation to academia exemplifies the potential for visionary leadership to impact the world.

Let’s explore how Michael’s expertise and passion converge to ignite transformative change, not only within education but across industries and around the world!

Fusing Bytes and Books

In the world of high-tech wonders, Michael’s journey kicked off at Cray Research, the legendary powerhouse for supercomputing. “Troubleshooting and installing supercomputers worldwide was an opportunity that I never imagined,” he reminisces.

Barely three years in, he transitioned from being a systems engineer to training countless supercomputer engineers globally. He recalls, “Sharing the mystique and knowledge of the supercomputer design, was where the real thrill happened for me.” But as tech tides shifted, so did Michael’s role. As an alternative training and education leader, he harnessed every digital tool to find global solutions to accelerate training and education.

A dozen years elapsed and a new love blossomed for education. For fifteen remarkable years, he championed innovative learning solutions in industry and higher education to deliver education to people worldwide. One of the many highlights included meeting and demonstrating innovative solutions to both the first and second Chief Technology Officers to the White House under President Barack Obama. The photograph captured to the right shows Mike with the 2nd White House Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park.

The Wealth of a Nation is achieved through educational attainment

In a world that often fixates on immediate and the tangible results, it’s essential to recognize the enduring worth of education. Michael advocates that education’s true value transcends singular degrees or fleeting moments. Instead, it’s a cumulative investment that enriches individuals, communities, cities, regions, and nations over time. Michael artfully likens the evaluation of a single college degree to gauging the worth of solitary bumblebee producing honey. Both, at first glance, may seem inconsequential, but their true value becomes evident when viewed in the broader context. Statistical data reinforces this notion, revealing that a person with a bachelor’s degree can potentially earn $2.8 million more over a 35-year career than someone without. This substantial financial gain, when scaled up to a community, city, or national level, underscores education’s far-reaching impact.

Michael acknowledges the critical role played by educational institutions that have thrived for over a century. These institutions, though built one degree at a time, have contributed significantly to societal growth.

Graduates, empowered by their education, often find themselves in a position to give back to their alma maters, driven by the belief that these institutions have invested in them far more than they gave.

Harvard University possesses financial resources that surpass the entire GDP of several countries like Serbia, Bolivia, El Salvador and Slovenia. When just one educational institution produces that much wealth, it speaks to the value of education investment over time.

When coupled with the millions of graduates across the United States, each earning significantly more in their careers due to their education and the myriad of innovations driven by education graduates that have fueled trillion-dollar companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, among others and it’s evident that investing in education is investing in societal progress.

With less than 4% of the world’s population, the United States has invested in education and individually borrowed against the future to become one of the world’s most educated and wealthy societies.

However, Michael cautions against solely focusing on the financial aspects of education. While it undoubtedly contributes to economic prosperity, education’s value extends beyond monetary gains. Education is intrinsically linked to productivity, health and overall societal success, as evidenced by the correlation between educational attainment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Many publications and illustrations reinforce the connection between education and earnings. They showcase that as educational attainment increases, so do weekly earnings and the likelihood of unemployment decreases. This correlation is an example of the transformative power of education in both individual lives and the broader economy.

Michael’s personal commitment to education shines through as he shares his experiences of contributing to university endowments and supporting family members who lacked the means to do so.

He shares that he has personally given to three university endowments, recognizing the importance of education when family members lacked the means to contribute. His commitment to education is further evident in his own career, as he has never experienced unemployment, and his children have each earned a college degree.

Looking ahead, Michael’s granddaughters, aged six and nine, already aspire to graduate from Oral Roberts University. This dedication to education extends to his wife, Pam and himself, as they have generously donated funds to a college in their parents’ names. Their actions convey a powerful message—education is an investment that returns the greatest value, an investment that can foster thriving families, communities, cities, regions, and nations.

Michael firmly believes that education is a catalyst for change on a national scale. He consistently encourages prospective students and parents not to be deterred by the costs of a college degree, asserting that it is among the best investments available. Education’s value extends beyond monetary gain, as it empowers individuals to give back to their families, communities, regions and nations. It is a simple principle—the more educated individuals are, the more they can contribute to the redistribution of wealth and health worldwide.

Michael proposes the idea that education is not just a personal achievement but a force for societal betterment. It embodies a profound belief that being a blessing to others multiplies when paired with the wealth, health and success that education brings, allowing individuals to pursue their dreams and make a lasting impact.

Education is not merely about financial gain—it’s about empowerment, productivity and the collective success of communities, cities, regions and nations. As Michael aptly puts it, being a blessing to others is amplified when one possesses the wealth, health and success that education can bestow.

Knowledge Knows No Bounds

Nestled in the realm of academia ORU has”175 accredited degree programs across six colleges,” as Michael explains. ORU’s mission is globally focused—to nurture whole leaders for our whole world through a distinct curriculum known as whole-person education.

Guiding this international academic institute is President Dr. William M. Wilson. A decade ago, he embarked on a mission of global proportions, birthing the “globalization task force” to create a roadmap to reach every nation on earth with ORU’s Whole Person Education model.

In Dr. Wilson’s tenure, ORU’s international footprint has flourished. “From 78 countries to 154,” Michael beams. This worldwide reach has placed ORU as one of the most diverse universities in the world and allowed ORU to have 15 consecutive years of enrollment growth.

As the Vice President for Global Learning and Innovation, Michael’s role is to create innovative solutions that allow us to leverage the world-ranked curriculum to everyone worldwide. The assignment in the curriculum offers a “Virtual key” to bring education into every household worldwide. Simply put, every global citizen can now come to ORU in person, study online, or attend every class synchronously (in real-time) and fully engage with the students and professors on campus.

Minds in Motion

Over the past ten years, ORU has become a recognized world changer in technology and education solutions. This global recognition has ranged from every student wearing Fitbit watches that personally assess how their physical fitness impacts their academic grades – to being completely immersed in virtual reality in order accelerate and enhance the learning process.

Over the last decade, ORU has seamlessly blended technology and education, a feat that has clinched “25 international awards,” as Michael gleefully shares. This innovative prowess has also garnered Michael speaking spots. “From the UN to the White House,” he notes, recounting his journey that he has spoken in 18 nations at countless international conferences.

The reality is that education worldwide has been long overdue for innovative breakthroughs and ORU is making quality education universally accessible through its cutting-edge “Virtual” format.

Education, Innovation, Transformation

The key to leveraging technology today is much different than five years ago. Michael affirms. “We have made a conscious decision to focus on the following two areas to ensure we get the best return on any technology or innovative investment.”

Michael’s insights illuminate a new path to success in the landscape of technology and education combined. “It’s not just about the tech, it’s about the art,” he asserts, highlighting a shift in focus over the years. He passionately advocates that mastering the ‘art‘ of technology deployment holds greater value than its science. “Anyone can buy tech, but wielding it artistically, that’s a rarity,” he adds. He explains it in other words, “The science of technology is a commodity, but the ability to be artistic with technology is a rare talent. Today, the ‘artistic’ talent is far more desirable and needed to become a world-class leader.”

But that’s only half the picture. Michael’s wisdom extends to the integration of all available technologies into a desirable solution for all users. “It’s like cooking up a delight,” he quips.

He introduces a modern twist on scalability—crafting solutions that are ‘taste-tested,’ reflecting how excellence in design and application makes them universally appealing.

A true innovator, Michael adds, “When something is so well done that, it passes a ‘taste test’ of sorts, it is scalable by default, simply due to the demand for it.” For those curious, Michael even shares more in his podcast, revealing how ‘taste testing’ technology is reshaping the future of education at ORU.

Shaping Tomorrow’s Tech

Michael’s insights cast light on an impending transformation. “Applied AI coupled with other tech will spark a significant change,” he predicts. He casts a contemplative glance at the past, acknowledging the iterations of technology. “Large learning models like ChatGPT or BingAI are unparalleled,” he emphasizes. Delving into this change, Michael mentions two pivotal aspects. Firstly, he highlights the profound change in how professionals interact with technology. He explains professors and experts no longer grapple with buttons, mouse triggers, or a combination of features to use to engage with it.

AI engines harness the power of language to drive research, solutions and responses at an accelerated pace; he shares, “They are merely using the very nature of the ‘narrative word’ to power accelerated responses, research, designs, etc. In other words, it is the breakthrough that speaks their language.”

Secondly, he magnifies the astounding computational speed of today’s supercomputers. “8-quintillion functions per second,” he marvels. This speed is awe-inspiring, but more importantly, they are used to access the Large Learning Models where everything is now digitized. He says, “We have entered a new world of enlightenment from an information access and processing perspective.”

The Scroll of Wisdom

Michael envisions a pivotal role in global education transformation alongside fellow scholars and leaders. “Education is on the brink of change,” he muses. However, his presence might be through digital twins (avatars), allowing him to be teleported anywhere in the world. “Needless to say, ORU will be the catalyst behind much of this innovation,” he predicts.

Bequeathing Wisdom

Be a visionary and set your sights on solving some global challenges that have yet to be solved,” Michael advises. His words carry the weight of innovation. “Anyone can use tech, but a true visionary who can see the subsequent waves of AI and supercomputing, combined with immersive learning will transform the world of learning and education,” he enthuses.

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