2U takes London
Company meeting and it’s luster was readily visible in my rearview as I boarded the flight for London to attend EdtechXEurope. Yet another adventure undertaken at the behest of my benevolent employer was beginning. Though my expectations were high, I was unaware that this journey would reinvigorate my belief in 2U’s mission and provide a broader and deeper understanding of how that mission is supported by our business.
I stepped off the plane and, after anxiously waiting to pass through customs, boarded the Tube (London’s subway system) to travel from Heathrow to downtown London. I knew that my hotel was located close to Hyde Park and assumed that knowledge would be sufficient to select the right stop from which to access my abode for the next few days. Not having any cell service and placing unwarranted faith in my less-than-stellar navigational prowess, I promptly and unknowingly exited at the wrong station. After wandering around for about 20 minutes asking in vain for directions, I discovered a McDonald’s with free wifi where I could lean on the trusty internet crutch for directional relief.
Confidence and vigor renewed, I strode off across Hyde Park with a skip in my step and baggage in tow. Hyde park is a study in contrast. The pathways are full of locals, biking in business suits, and tourists wearing cameras around their necks as badges of honor alike. Hipsters lounge on park benches, leveraging their knapsacks as temporary pillows for an afternoon nap. The flora is impressive to say the least. Well organized rose gardens abut intricately decorated fountains whose trickling waters and well-worn and weathered stone have entertained countless onlookers over centuries of existence.
Ultimately, this is where London truly shines. There is contrast everywhere. An unwavering reverence for the past, for tradition, for history is ever-present throughout the city. And yet, the city manages to simultaneously embrace and encourage innovation.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered an analogy to how 2U operates and why we are successful. As 2U’s CEO Chip Paucek said during his keynote at the EdTech Europe conference, 2U’s success is intimately and inseparably intertwined with the brands and institutional knowledge our university partners have established and nurtured over their hundreds of years of existence. But 2U allows these universities to extend the prosperity and understanding afforded by a graduate degree to a new audience through a modern medium, while maintaining a tried and true educational mindset and method. I take pride in the fact that I, like all of my fellow 2Utes, have the chance to help engineer a bridge that will help strengthen, modernize and extend higher education into the new millennium, while continuing to embrace the past, the tradition, the history, and the wisdom that make higher education so impactful.