Minnesota native Curt Rice starts his new position this month as president of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA). This makes him the first non-Norwegian head of a Norwegian institution for higher education. Viking featured Rice in the August 2015 issue. Check it out on page 46 and see more from the interview below.
Q: What makes you passionate about education?
A: I’ve spent my entire career in higher education. My most fundamental motivation comes from my strong belief that education and research are keys to making society better, to making lives better, to letting people better understand the natural and social contexts in which they live their lives. Education is about discovery; it’s about replacing “not knowing” with “knowing.” The Vikings may have believed that Thor caused thunder; education lets us liberate ourselves from that kind of thinking and it leads us to something much more reliable.
Q: Your work focuses primarily on gender balance and open access at universities. What drives that passion?
A: I would say that my work focuses on making universities better and that these are two aspects of that work. Diversity in organizations leads to better teaching and research; employees are happier in organizations with gender balance in the leadership team. Open access is a new approach to publishing scientific results where the idea is that the results of publicly funded research should be publicly available. My engagement on this issue is especially focused on how this thinking actually can improve the quality of research, which in turn leads to better education.
Q: What are your favorite things about living in Norway?
A: Norway is a fairly well-functioning society by international standards. When I first arrived here, I was especially struck by the absence of poverty. One just doesn’t see poverty in Norway like one does in the United States. It’s also comforting to know that hard-working middle-class people here won’t lose their homes because of unexpected medical bills. So, all in all, I would say that the spirit of living in a society and taking responsibility for ones neighbors through the way society is organized is a much stronger value in Norway than in the United States. I also appreciate the sense of personal modesty that is so strong in Norway. People can think and believe as they please, but they respect that others believe differently and it’s not a big deal. And as a researcher, I would say that there’s a widespread respect for the results of scientific research here that I don’t always experience in other countries. These are big issues but they actually affect my daily life in ways that I find to be positive and important.
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: Academic life doesn’t always feel like it has a lot of free time, so we have to be extra careful to make sure we get some. I enjoy staying in shape physically, especially biking. Lately I’ve gotten into playing squash, which is a very fun sport. I also enjoy spending time with my closest friends when I get the chance.