Many years ago, when a new dean at my university referred to the faculty as "content providers," my colleagues and I rolled our eyes.
It was the latest hokey label for an old profession.
There was "sage on the stage" (the distant lecturer on the podium), "guide on the side" (the collaborative, student-centered instructor) and, in the laptop classroom in which the teacher meanders behind the students, the "peer at the rear."
Like all catchphrases and buzzwords, they served a shorthand purpose. But ponder them, and you could discern far-reaching trends in U.S. education.
Students, too, are redefined. The terms have varied - "learners," "critical thinkers," "meaning makers," "problem solvers."
The hot one now seems to be "entrepreneur" or "student-entrepreneur" at the college level.
Entrepreneurship programs have exploded on U.S. campuses, and administrators love to talk about them. They aren't just for business students.
Kansas State University's Center for Advancement of Entrepreneurship declares, "The mission of our award-winning center is to promote entrepreneurship among all academic disciplines," while at Arizona State University, "The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative provides funding, mentorship and office space to teams of students within all university disciplines."
Princeton's Keller Center eLab boasts, "students will work together in a supportive community of fellow entrepreneurs," and the University of Michigan's Center for Entrepreneurship pledges to "connect our student entrepreneurs to our extensive mentor network and invite mentors into the classroom."
It's not always about money, either, as this Bloomberg Businessweek article observed: "Every spring, the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting brings together some of the world's most promising student entrepreneurs, who come to the group's annual meeting with ideas they hope will bring about social change."
Such programs are now common enough to have their own rankings: Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine compile an annual list of the 25 best undergraduate entrepreneurship units in the country.
The benefits of more entrepreneurial thinking on campus are obvious, both for individual students, who are running up debt and facing uncertain employment, and for the U.S. economy, which increasingly relies on innovation to maintain its global position.
But the expansion of entrepreneurship centers and the redefinition of students are happening so swiftly and eagerly that one wonders where the education ends and the hype begins.
The advantages of the entrepreneurship label are considerable. It's an improvement over "customers," a term of the late 1990s that recast higher education as a service industry.
"Customer" sounds too passive for the 21st century, now that digital tools have given teenagers so much capacity to create and distribute their own words, photos, videos and songs.
"Entrepreneur" also reaches well beyond "learners," which ties students to a set content, the books they read and labs they complete. "Entrepreneur" anticipates each student stepping forward to form and share something wholly new. Student entrepreneurs aren't just learning - they're doing.