Beyond the Ivory Tower

10/29/2015 12:01

Dr. Nancy Cantor ~ “Questioning is, of course, at the heart of education, it's at the heart of learning. But it's not just questioning because you can have the answer, it's questioning itself as a process (that) is good for us. And we have a lot of questioning to do right now in the world.”

The Orion, Wednesday, October 21, 2015 ~ “Academic Senate calls Administration to Action”


We are preparing to install a new campus President in the not-too-distant future. Considering what I’ve learned here within the past five years, I wouldn’t call this a turn-key operation to step into. As a campus, we are rich in talent and experience, pummeled by reality, and loaded with questions. Where does anyone begin to address the challenges of today’s university, here or anywhere? We in the College of Business are likely to be particularly well qualified to mull this over. Ethical business is, at its core, about creating cultures of possibility, of excellence; cultures that endure.

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a podcast about the “place” of universities within communities. This webcast, Beyond the Ivory Tower, features Dr. Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, and Dr. Christopher Howard, President of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

Their discussion covered a lot of ground and offered big ideas. Does brutal reality discourage us from taking them on? I hope not. Here’s a selection of discussion points from the webcast worth mulling over within the context of our own place in the COB and in the community as educators:

Nancy Cantor:

On being collaborative inside or outside of departments and compartments: “Being a neighbor is not just a term. It's not a geographic term. It's a moral concept. What does that mean when we think about education? What if we really thought thatbeing of a community, not just happenstance located in the community, was a moral construct about collective responsibility?”

On not attempting change or transformation because we are convinced the change won’t occur: “I think one of the things that we gravitate to too quickly is really the status quo, in all its richness…we have norms and traditions and tasks and cultures and ways of being that are useful, they're adaptive. They let us do things by default. But the fact of the matter is default doesn't always work, right? And default doesn't always bring everybody to the table.”

Christopher Howard:

On mining intelligence and strength from diversity: “(At the University of Oklahoma honors program) we had people coming from all different political backgrounds and a very intimate learning environment…on a public university campus, and we questioned what we valued, and we respected each other. And it was a very, very civil place for us to disagree. And so…I just wanted to…. (s)upport (the idea) that the classroom, the institutions of higher learning, have a unique opportunity (to elicit these discussions about values and respect).”

On the imperative for action and innovation: “You talk about the common place, the commons. I love those terms. We have common cause here, because if we don't do it right, if we don't extend ourselves, if we don't get uncomfortable, it’s not going to change. It's never going to get better.”

I recommend listening to what these campus transformers have to say.  What Dr. Howard says about extending ourselves, and sometimes being uncomfortable in the process, pretty much sums up a way of life that leads to incredible results when we’re willing to risk transforming an unhappy status quo.

 But you probably already know that, and have lived it.