Laureate Leadership Perspectives – Linda Brown, CEO, Laureate Australia & New Zealand (LANZ)

This month, Esther Benjamin, Laureate’s Senior Vice President Global Public Affairs and Chief Benefit Officer, interviews LANZ CEO, Linda Brown. Linda has worked around the world changing the way people think about higher education. In this interview, she shares with us some highlights of her life’s journey and her vision for the future of Laureate and global higher education.

Esther Benjamin: We first met at a Laureate Leadership Summit where you introduced yourself as an agitator. What does it mean to be an agitator in higher education?

Linda Brown: I’ve been an agitator in higher education for 22 years, but not for agitation’s sake. Higher education is one of the oldest, most traditional paradigms we still have. On the most basic level, it is clever people who teach their knowledge to other people, a pattern existing for millions of years. However, today knowledge and information are readily available. Our job is now not only to help people acquire and collect knowledge, but more importantly, to apply it. To be an agitator in higher education means to offer alternatives that respond to the outcomes the world needs and demands.

EB: What was it about Laureate that attracted you to join the company nearly five years ago?

LB: I had been watching Laureate for some time during Laureate’s entry into Australia and New Zealand. What drew me to Laureate was the courage they had to create the first new university in Australia in 20 years. Being international and having traveled worldwide, connecting myself to a global model such as Laureate excited me a great deal.

EB: Torrens was the first new university in Australia in 20 years. You have just enrolled your 10,000th student. What has Torrens offered in Australia that traditional universities have not offered?

LB: We simply focused on making sure that every single student received what they had been promised. We did several things to achieve this. First, we made sure our students went to work. Second, we made sure to be flexible. We did hybrid education before it was widespread. We worked hard to ensure our online students received the same benefits of networking, connectivity, and support. We focused on giving students a choice on how and where they learn. As an example, our campuses are open 24/7 if anybody wants to get creative at 2:00 AM. Third, we work to give our students the edge. Even in Australia, 29% of college graduates seek to complete further courses or professional certificates to obtain more skills to get a job. We want to make sure our students acquire a set of qualifications that give them the edge to be recruited first and to have better results. Last, but not least, we are Here for Good. We want students to be able to work together and have the skills to change the world.

EB: Could you share some examples of how LANZ is using technology to improve student experiences and student outcomes?

LB: We are blessed to have the wonderful Media Design School (MDS) in New Zealand. Our technology center in New Zealand continues to drive innovation across LANZ. We have partnerships with wonderful companies and people who want to change the future of education and create a difference in the world. For example, a group of MDS graduates and other professionals came together, with our help, to develop an augmented reality solution for children with chemotherapy to experience a chemotherapy machine before going through treatment. With this tool, only 15% of children are medicated before treatment because they are not afraid of the machine.

Another example is the work MDS has done to address the tremendous inequality that exists among Maori and Pacific Islanders. Coming together with partner organizations, MDS has developed a gamified solution that allows all Maori and Pacific Islanders across New Zealand to look at careers in a different way and start considering creative careers. To support this initiative, we have enlisted the help of several influential former All Blacks – New Zealand’s iconic national rugby team.

This is what we should be doing as a movement.

EB: What is your vision for Here for Good in LANZ?

LB: The anchor to which we keep returning in LANZ is being a Movement. We are a small region, but we have a lot to offer: attitude, technology, innovation, and globalization. Our biggest advantage is that we have the credibility to become an important voice in the world in terms of inclusion, participation, and thought-leadership. We have in our organization amazing academics and amazing business people with a strong voice and credibility which allows us to drive the Laureate Movement. We are driven not only by our commitment to our 16,000 students, but by the belief that we are impacting millions by changing the way higher education is thought about in Australia. We were brought in because we are global. We are Laureate. And LANZ puts the global in Laureate.

I hope we continue being this global component of what Laureate does in the future. To me it is not just about having 50,000 employed graduates by 2025, LANZ being a billion-dollar company, not just about having five self-funding research centers. To me it truly is about how we take this muscle and go into countries. 80% of humanity still lives with under less than ten dollars a day. 50% of women live with less than one dollar a day. How do we take this and then help systems, help countries, help other institutions, help our partners, help us make sure that everybody gets an opportunity through education and training? Laureate is all about bringing education globally and being the change, and LANZ can be the innovation driver to achieve this.

EB: You are one of our top women leaders at Laureate. What is your advice to the up and coming women in the company?

LB: It is simple. We need to step-up and support each other. We need to make sure that we are supporting inclusion. The vision of Positive Leadership is celebrating our differences and uniqueness. We must take each opportunity to reach out and help anybody who does not feel included, and create spaces where people can make the best of themselves and their journey in the company. We need to be loud and proud in caring for each other.

EB: What would be your closing message to over 65,000 Laureate staff worldwide?

Hold on to the dream. We are a large global organization going through substantial changes, and sometimes it’s not easy to understand. We have strong leadership, a strong purpose, and we are changing the world. To be genuinely Here for Good we must get up every day and do what we do in the best way possible. Not many jobs can give you the opportunity to work with so many talented people across the world. The network offers phenomenal opportunities to connect and engage with colleagues worldwide. Don’t wait to be invited. If you want to share an idea or talk to a colleague, do it. Call them. Text them. Email. Connect. Connect. Connect. Laureate is an organization rich with research, academics, and people who are teaching and learning and share your same beliefs. We are privileged to have this opportunity at Laureate.