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Interviewing: Tomorrow University

24. May 2024

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Mar 04, 2024 · 8 Min read

Today, we're excited to dive into a conversation with Tomorrow University. Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences is a fully-accredited, remote-first institution that allows learners to build the 21st-century skills needed in sustainability, entrepreneurship, and technology through our revolutionary approach to education. In this interview, we unravel Tomorrow University's mission, exploring how they're shaping a future where education and sustainability go hand in hand.

1. What inspired the founding of Tomorrow University, and what are its core missions and values?

Tomorrow University was founded in response to the challenges highlighted by the global pandemic in 2020. Witnessing the struggles of traditional education systems to adapt to the sudden shift towards remote learning, the founders, Christian Rebernik and Dr. Thomas Funke, identified a pressing need for an education model that not only harnessed the benefits of modern technology but also prioritized active learning over traditional teaching methods. Tomorrow University embraces a global community of learners, transcending the concept of a physical campus, and is guided by core values that emphasize curiosity, community, responsibility, and courage. The mission is to empower learners to actively contribute to building a better future by influencing and creating solutions for the most significant issues of our times.

2. How does Tomorrow University's approach to education differ from traditional universities?

  • Tomorrow University of Applied Sciences distinguishes itself from traditional universities through its commitment to addressing pressing global challenges and cultivating learners who are conscious creators, innovators, and leaders. The university aligns with the UN 2030 Global Goals for Sustainable Development, focusing on the sustainability of people, profit, planet, and peace through partnership.
  • The educational approach at Tomorrow University responds to three distinct challenges: environmental, societal, and economic. It adopts a Challenge-Based Learning model, emphasizing multidisciplinary collaboration to solve real-world problems.
  • Unlike traditional education's division into discrete subjects, Tomorrow University's approach encourages a focus on issues, the application of knowledge, and reflection on the process, fostering critical thinking and collaboration. Challenges are designed to have sustainability components, aligning with the university's core values and the imperative to address global issues. The emphasis on autonomy, competence, and relatedness in learning experiences, supported by synchronous and asynchronous collaborative discussions, ensures a dynamic and engaging educational environment that prepares learners for the complexities of the 21st century.

3. Can you describe some of the unique programs or courses offered at Tomorrow University?

Tomorrow University offers unique programs designed to align education with the evolving needs of the business world.

  • The Impact MBA in Sustainability, Innovation & Leadership is a remote part-time program tailored for professionals seeking a mission-driven career. Divided into four phases, it provides a strong foundation in business sustainability and allows for customization through specializations like responsible innovation, ESG management, climate leadership, green tech, or new work. With a focus on flexibility, learners can balance work and travel commitments with on-demand lessons and just one live evening session per week. The program aims to transform leaders and their teams, encouraging them to think beyond boundaries and contribute to solving societal challenges.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Responsible Entrepreneurship & Management offers a forward-thinking, online program that prepares learners to become socially conscious leaders. Through challenge-based learning and interactive coursework, students gain expertise in responsible innovation, marketing, product strategy, and leadership, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset. The program emphasizes flexibility, allowing learners to balance studies with work and travel, and equips them with the skills to make a sustainable impact on society, the environment, and the economy.

4. How does Tomorrow University incorporate technology and innovation into its curriculum?

Tomorrow University incorporates technology and innovation into its curriculum through a combination of state-of-the-art learning science and technology. The university strives to create flexible, accessible, and effective learning experiences that equip learners with the key ingredients for impact: Purpose, Capability, and Community.

  1. Remote-First Learning Environment: Tomorrow University provides access to accredited degree programs and a world-class network through a remote-first learning environment. This allows learners to engage with the curriculum from anywhere in the world, promoting accessibility and flexibility.
  2. Flexible Learning Options: The university offers flexible learning options designed to fit learners' busy schedules. This includes on-demand lessons and just one live evening session each week. The asynchronous learning model allows learners to balance their studies with work and travel commitments.
  3. Challenge-Based Learning: Tomorrow University employs an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. This method encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenges are designed to be collaborative and hands-on, requiring students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world.
  4. Interactive Coursework: The curriculum involves interactive coursework that goes beyond the traditional memorization of facts. It focuses on real-world problems, encouraging students to apply their knowledge to solve practical challenges. This aligns with problem-based learning (PBL) principles, where students use what they learn to address real-world problems.
  5. Stackable Impact Certificates: The university emphasizes stackable impact certificates, allowing learners to accumulate credentials as they progress. This approach aligns with a competency-based learning model, where learners gain specific skills and competencies that are relevant to their chosen field.
  6. Virtual Speaker Sessions and Exploration Sessions: Tomorrow University organizes community events, including virtual speaker sessions and virtual exploration sessions. These sessions likely leverage technology to bring in experts, industry leaders, and innovators who can share insights and engage with learners on relevant topics.
  7. Digital Community: The community aspect is likely facilitated through digital platforms, enabling learners to connect, collaborate, and exchange ideas. Digital tools and platforms provide a space for learners to interact globally, fostering a sense of community.

8. What are the main challenges Tomorrow University has faced, and how have you overcome them?

In creating a flexible curriculum that accommodates a global community, the main challenges are

  1. Time zone variations: Coordinating synchronous activities such as live sessions, discussions, or collaborative work is challenging when learners are dispersed across different time zones. There are difficulties in finding suitable times for everyone to participate.
  2. Technical Barriers: Learners sometimes face tech challenges such as unstable internet access to devices, and this impacts their ability to participate

6. How does Tomorrow University prepare its students for the future job market?

Tomorrow University ensures its students are well-prepared for the future job market through clear and comprehensive program offerings. For instance, the Bachelor's Degree in Responsible Entrepreneurship & Management is designed to equip highly motivated professionals, from freelancers to responsible business leaders, with the tools and techniques necessary for becoming entrepreneurs. The program emphasizes developing soft skills such as critical and creative thinking, financial management, and confidence building, with 95% of Tomorrow learners experiencing increased confidence to have a real-world impact. The program's attractiveness lies in its focus on modern, global business success, with insights gathered from startup experts, including founders from Plan A, Tier Mobility, or Share. Examples of potential jobs for graduates include transforming ideas into viable business opportunities, applying entrepreneurial processes to build Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) or services, and creating business plans for new ventures. The program also offers stackable impact certificates, allowing students to think and act as entrepreneurs, build foundations for growth, and prototype impactful solutions. This approach ensures that graduates are academically prepared and practically equipped to thrive in the evolving job market.

7. Could you share a success story of a Tomorrow University graduate?

Bianca Gfrei, a Tomorrow University graduate, embarked on her unique journey well before joining ToU as a Master's Degree learner in Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, and Technology. Growing up in the Austrian countryside, Bianca demonstrated a visionary and unconventional approach to life. During her university years, she co-founded Kiweno, a tech startup aimed at making diagnostic lab testing easier, more affordable, and accessible. After a successful entrepreneurial stint, including participation in the NYC Techstars accelerator, Bianca redirected her path to study the human nervous system, holistic coaching, meditation, and yoga.

Currently, as a coach and systemic leadership consultant with Framechangers, Bianca guides transformational leadership experiences for prominent clients like Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. She has seamlessly integrated her roles as a learner, challenge owner, and entrepreneur. Besides pursuing her studies at ToU, Bianca is a lecturer for Responsible Organizations, focusing on Resilience Training for Leaders. Her roles have intertwined, with her academic pursuits providing insights for her entrepreneurial endeavors. Her Master’s thesis on leaders' consciousness aligns closely with her professional work.

8. What is the long-term vision for Tomorrow University?

Tomorrow University envisions a future where a sustainable and just society is built by empowered and connected individuals who continuously develop and tap into their full potential as creators and innovators in a complex and ever-changing world. In the next 5 to 10 years, Tomorrow University envisions several key outcomes:

  1. Impactful Learners: By 2030, Tomorrow University aims to have educated and empowered more than a million change-makers aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These individuals are envisioned as responsible entrepreneurs and change-makers who shape the future of organizations and set the societal agenda.
  2. Purposeful Careers: Learners from Tomorrow University are expected to have a clear sense of purpose, working in areas where they believe they can have a significant impact. Known for their problem-solving skills, network, and engagement, these learners are anticipated to be highly sought after by corporations and investors alike.
  3. Competence Development: Tomorrow University emphasizes effective learning of competencies through its challenge learning format and high personalization with competency-based learning. The goal is for learners to gain more than 60 million tomorrow impact credits, reflecting their acquired skills and capabilities.
  4. Community Building: Tomorrow University aims to be the home of meaningful connections, where learners exchange, grow, and collaborate. The vision includes a vast international network of learners, including organizations, academics, researchers, practitioners, and mentors, contributing to multiplying impact.
  5. Global Reach: Tomorrow University envisions providing learners with academic credibility globally in major fields and regions. Learning and engagement are designed to be flexible, immersive, and accessible from any place in the world, supporting learners' needs. While the community is digital and global, there is an emphasis on local in-person meetings to enhance the sense of connection.

The strategic formula for Tomorrow University's long-term vision is expressed through the integration of Purpose, Competence, and Community, which collectively leads to impactful outcomes and global reach.

9. How does Tomorrow University engage with the local community and the wider world?

  • Tomorrow University is deeply committed to community engagement, understanding that it contributes to affective commitment and learner happiness. The university facilitates this engagement through a variety of community events. These include virtual speaker sessions, providing learners with the opportunity to connect with thought leaders and experts from around the world. Virtual exploration sessions further enrich the learning experience, allowing participants to delve into various topics.
  • To foster a sense of community, ToU organizes growth circles within the learner community. These circles provide a space for individuals to share insights, experiences, and perspectives, fostering a collaborative learning environment. Additionally, in-person meetups are arranged, featuring local sustainability leaders who lead engaging workshops and discussions. These events serve as platforms for learners and the team to delve into topics that impact them directly, discussing challenges and, importantly, exploring solutions.

Acknowledging the importance of localized connections, ToU establishes local city hubs. These hubs are organized and run by members from specific areas, providing an avenue for local learners to interact, share experiences, and discuss ongoing initiatives. This multi-faceted approach to community engagement ensures that learners at Tomorrow University not only connect with a global network but also have opportunities to engage meaningfully with their local communities, promoting a holistic and interconnected learning experience.

As we wrap up this insightful interview with Tomorrow University, we're reminded of the shared commitment to sustainability and the pivotal role students play in creating positive change. A big thank you to Tomorrow University for shedding light on their vision.