By Michael Mathews, Vice President for Technology and Innovation, Oral Roberts University
By Michael Mathews, Vice President for Technology and Innovation, Oral Roberts University
Michael Mathews Oral Roberts University
Michael L. Mathews, CIO, Oral Roberts University

When I was a young boy, my grandfather, Dale Mathews would watch me exhaust myself while completing an extremely hard task. He would look at me and smile, but shake his head and make the statement ‘Mike, did you know that with the right leverage you could move the world?’  As a young boy, I had no idea what he was talking about. Little did I know that he was referring to the famous saying by Archimedes (circa 250 B.C.)‘Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.’ Archimedes of Syracuse was an illustrious Greek inventor, mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and engineer. He was highly educated and used all the technology available in his time.

During my wonderful career in education and technology, I have witnessed this statement play out precisely. I have seen that the great levers of the 21st century are first and foremost education but definitely includes technology.

The lever of technology

Let me first start with the second lever first. During the past six months during COVID-19, we have witnessed the world shift in many incredible ways. The best way to illustrate this is to look at the company called Zoom Telecommunications versus the airline industry. In less than six months, Zoom went from having 25 million users to approximately 350 million users. This shift resulted in Zoom Telecommunications being worth more than the top seven airlines combined.[i]Zooms market value has sprung to $48.78 billion, while the airlines are operating at minimal capacity and losing billions each quarter.

This same shift in other areas of technology within society include Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. In fact, during the past ten years, the technology industry began to dominate the Fortune 500 Company list from a market share perspective.[i]  The lever of technology is truly shifting the world and the opportunities provided to 7.8 billion citizens. 

The lever of education

The example of Zoom shifting society is interesting as it directly impacts education during COVID-19. Zoom now makes it possible to not only equalize education opportunities around the world but speed up its delivery, while automatically recording it. During the past four months, I have personally witnessed people from an additional 45 nations receive some form of education that they normally would not have access. 

Education is undoubtedly the best lever and value on planet earth. Looking back on the advice of my parents and grandparents, who did not have a formal post-high school degree, I can see why they were persistent in me getting an education. Since earning multiple post-high school degrees, I can see that my grandfather and Archimedes were correct; by using the right lever(s) you can move the world.  Education has provided me levers in the world that they could not access. Specifically, a degree in technology opened doors in numerous walks-of-life, that I could never have fathomed. The image below represents my first understanding of the ‘lever’ of education and technology.

It is my first technology assignment of installing a Cray Research Supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. On the first day of the install, 200 university and college presidents from around the world came to witness the influence of the Cray Supercomputer at the Center in Boulder, Colorado. In fact, 25 years later I would look and find that the whole experience was documented precisely in the archives of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In other words, my parents and grandparents were correct, my ability to work with education behind my name, started to build a digital footprint that could allow shifts in the world.

Michael Mathews, testing out the Cray Research Supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Michael Mathews, testing out the Cray Research Supercomputer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research

The impact on the world

The impact of my work with the ‘lever’ of a few education degrees has continued to impact the world. This evidence can be seen through an ongoing digital footprint, specifically in the field of education and technology.[i]  As time has passed many pundits argue against the value of an education. However, I and millions of others can firmly state that the value of education far surpasses almost any other investment on earth.

In my lifetime, I have borrowed money for education, homes, cars, campers, and home improvement projects. Without a doubt, my investment in education has delivered the greatest value, and over the longest period of time. This value includes a very fair annual salary in the field of educational technology; but more importantly, it has given me the ability to help shift our world in ways I never thought possible.

The reward

The ‘lever’ of education truly can move the world. In my case, I have compared the financial pay-back over a 25-year period of my career to be worth $2.8million more than some of my peers who did not invest in education. I anticipate the final investment to be worth $3.5 million more than my peer’s lack of investment. This extra income has been re-invested many times over to further impact around the world. The re-investment of my original investment has exponentially impacted people, businesses, campuses, and both regional and digital infrastructures. Educating over 325 engineers on hundreds of supercomputers during a twelve-year span of my career, helped shift eight different industries around the world. It would have been impossible to even dream of these societal changes when my grandfather would say those words ‘Mike, did you know with the right leverage, you could move the world’?

No other investment in my life has paid back with such quick and rewarding benefits. Education is truly the number one ‘lever’ that continues to shift the world. I have done a few research projects that conclude that a person who invests in a bachelor’s degree at a premier university, such as Oral Roberts University can earn an average of $3.0M more during their career — than those who don’t earn a degree. This means, I am slightly above average, and that an investment in education is truly one of the greatest values and treasures know to humanity.

Putting the lever of education and technology together

For the reasons I mentioned, I am a strong proponent of helping people around the world invest in education. It is a seed that brings a great harvest and feeds far more than one village. Upon joining ORU in 2014, the President, Dr. William Wilsonmotivated everyone to think big, and think global. At that time, there were 86 nations around the word being impacted by ORU. Today through his leadership and effective use of technology, ORU has over 195 nations around the world accessing our digital content, and students from 116 nations coming to ORU to invest in their journey to impact the world.

Reaching this many people with one of the greatest investments in the world, would not be possible without the lever of technology. In 2017, ORU designed and built the world-renown Global Learning Center that was designed with augmented and virtual reality, and started one of Zoom’s first campus-wide deployments. This technology has allowed students around the world to be reached more efficiently and effectively. From an orphanage in Africa to 23 remote locations in Pakistan, to Fortune 500 companies in Singapore, to 165 classrooms on the campus of ORU – we have Zoomed into every person’s world to start their education investment. The combined levers of education and technology are truly shifting our world.



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