You are here

Academic Leadership

In the summer of 2004, as athletes around the world converged in Athens for the Olympic Games, another Olympian venture was taking place half a world away at George Mason University (Va.).

Last month's End Note featured a president who lived among students for an overnight. Here is the perspective of another president who has lived as a student for a day?and who allows a student to sit at his desk for that day.

The 1798 poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge states, "Water, water everywhere / Nor any drop to drink."

Since the times of the ancient mariner, fresh, potable water has been a scarce commodity around the world. Clearly, in the new global economy, clean water will be the leading pathway to 21st-century scientific discovery. It is equally clear that because of its dominant role in research and innovation, the science of protecting and restoring water resources will be the DNA of our planet's long-term sustainability.

Change in academia tends to occur gradually, but the University of Missouri- Columbia turned that conventional wisdom on its head when it implemented a lecture capture system that students and faculty alike embraced with unprecedented speed.

The search for a lecture capture system began in the spring of 2009, after several faculty members approached the technology department saying they wanted to implement lecture capture for their classes, said Danna Vessell, the university's director of educational technologies.

We asked what makes your administrative department an efficiency model, and you delivered. Everyone in higher education is being forced to do more with less. Stellar campus administrative departments are continually working to also do it all better than ever before.

Innovation is not a term typically used within higher education circles. Rich in tradition and history, American higher education has been sometimes labeled a bureaucratic, traditionally mired venture that does not change with the times. But this generalization is, in so many ways, incorrect. We have one of the most innovative and complex postsecondary systems in the world, with breadth and depth in our educational delivery.

It wouldn't take much asking around to learn how one attains a goal of reaching the college presidency: teach, then get on the tenure track, become a department chair, and rise up the administrative ladder to chief academic officer. Those with the ambition (and energy left) to win an appointment are most likely to be white, age 60, and a married male, according to American Council on Education data on the typical president in 2006.

In America, we lavish attention on our most talented fellow citizens—star athletes, film and television celebrities, brilliant scholars and scientists, and sometimes even college presidents—but we also insist that our celebrities not act like self-styled royalty. When members of America's elite are aloof and ignore the public's welfare—as many titans of Wall Street did, first ruining the economy, then paying themselves bonuses—Americans insist on retribution.