Every four years, colleges and universities around the U.S. vie for the privilege of hosting a presidential debate. While it comes with a price tag—about $4 to $5 million dollars in fees and operational costs—most institutions that choose to pursue this opportunity cite both short- and long-term benefits—from a PR boost to infrastructure enhancement.

For some institutions, though, the benefits are really all about teaching and learning. Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia used the vice-presidential debate as a cross-disciplinary learning opportunity—and as a living laboratory for testing a curriculum redesign that supports its mission to educate citizen leaders. More than 500 students volunteered to help with the debate. Students were involved in voter registration drives, attended special academic lectures, shared their perspectives, watched journalists at work, and, on the night of the debate gathered on the campus lawn to watch democracy in action on the Jumbotrons.

Of course, not every institution is scrambling to host a presidential election. But I do believe many institutions want to say “yes” to opportunities like these. They want to say yes to delivering a better student experience. They want to say yes to new ways of learning. They want to say yes to new research ventures that could change the world. Saying yes requires vision, confidence, and resources. It also requires organizational agility, new ways of connecting on campus and off, and secure access to teaching and learning tools.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that higher education is slow to evolve, resistant to change, and too attached to the old to embrace the new. I don’t buy it.

The leaders at the colleges and universities I talk to are embracing innovation to improve student success, deliver better student experiences, and make education more affordable. They’re looking at how they can make teaching and learning more relevant and personal. They’re asking their students to dig deeper and think harder by experimenting with project-based learning. They’re asking their faculties to walk away from the lectern and embrace the flipped classroom concept. They’re making digital literacy a priority for their staffs. And they’re expecting IT to find creative ways to support these innovations with new and emerging technologies and services.

At Citrix, we’re helping colleges and universities create secure, connected, and continuous digital learning environments to engage students, drive innovation, and differentiate their institutions.

We’re helping to improve collaboration and communication by creating virtual learning and work spaces that can be accessed from anywhere at any time. We’re making sure our customers can take advantage of services delivered from cloud—whether public, private, or hybrid. And yes, we’re doing it all while keeping sensitive information secure enough to meet even the most rigorous compliance standards.

At EDUCAUSE, I hope you’ll stop by our booth — #841 — to learn how we are helping institutions say “yes” and transform the student experience. And check back here next week to hear how we’re helping higher education institutions like yours create agile mobile environments while protecting mission-critical data.

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