The Stork in Rome: Reinventing Higher Education Conference


The Reinventing Higher Education Conference organized by IE University and LUISS University was held this year in Rome, Italy at the LUISS University campus on the 15th and 16th of November. The conference and the esteemed speakers in attendance covered a myriad of topics concerning the current issues facing higher education institutions and what they believe the future holds. The Stork was honored to be invited to attend the conference at the invitation of IE University. While at the conference, the former Stork President & Editor in Chief and current Executive Advisor, Francia Morales, gave a presentation conveying the findings of a study The Stork conducted regarding the future of higher education as seen from the perspective of students. 

The Stork had the opportunity to observe the pulse of the student body from up close as the IE University student newspaper and media outlet. The Stork conducted several interviews and surveys, asking the student body about which direction they see higher education going. In doing this research, The Stork also partnered with other university newspapers, Roar News from King’s College London, The Student from the University of Edinburgh, The Ubyssey from the University of British Columbia, and Outlook from the American University in Beirut. 

When asked in a Stork poll if respondents feel higher education has been changed forever by the pandemic, 91% said yes. The same poll found a smaller majority, 62% of respondents, said they feel the hybrid classroom should stay as a facet of our educational experience. Considering the challenges students faced these past two years, a poll conducted by AUB’s Outlook, found that 54% of students saw no change in their grades while navigating a virtual or hybrid education. 

During her presentation at the conference on The Stork’s findings, Morales noted: 

“Students were most interested in how universities respond to their different needs when it comes to teaching styles, the new flexibilities of learning, and the prospects of their lives on campus. At the end of the day, the ability to be in touch with the needs of students and respond to them in dynamic, innovative and character-shaping ways is what connects these three areas, and what will set apart each university from the next.” 

“at the end of the day, the ability to be in touch with the needs of the students and respond to them is what… will set apart each university from the next”

– Francia Morales, Former President & Ed of the IE Stork

Over the two days, several panels held fascinating conversations on their own experiences with higher education’s adaptation to the pandemic, unique methodologies, and what the world will look like in the future after such a challenging past two years. The panel Open Exchange of Ideas, Diversity of Thoughts in Higher Education included thoughtful discussion from IE’s own President Santiago Íñiguez accompanied by Kasturi Behari Leak, President of ICED, South Africa, Anthony Grayling, the Principal of the New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, USA, Dr. Dwight A. McBride, the President of The New School, USA, Carlos Montúfar, the President of the Board, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador, and was moderated by Alessandro Speciale, the Rome Bureau Chief at Bloomberg. 

The full list of panelists and the entire conference program is available here.

A video recap of the conference is available here.

The conference concluded with words from Mamokgethi Phakeng, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Gonzalo Garland, the Executive Vice President of the IE Foundation, and Andrea Prencipe, the Rector of Luiss University. 

The Stork would like to reflect on the extraordinary experience that the conference was to attend. The future of higher education is in flux, reshaping to the contours of global challenges and accommodating a more diverse, international community of brilliant students. Conferences such as the Reinventing Higher Education Conference, where minds come together to share their respective experiences, strengthen the global network that will aid higher education to improve and adapt as global challenges continue to arise and where a diversity of knowledge is necessary to nurture. It is in meeting the challenges of the future that student engagement and the amplification of student voices is necessary. 

The Stork would like to thank IE President Santiago Íñiguez and IE Foundation Director General Geoffroy Gérard for inviting us to the conference and working with us so that we could contribute the student perspective to the conversation. 

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