Building Coherence, Collaboration, Cohesion and Connection: The Role of Today's Academic Vice President

Article excerpt

George Bernard Shaw said "we are made wise not by the recollections of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."

Colleges and universities across the country are continuously struggling with the past and future challenges that are unique to the academic enterprise. There is a sense among many academicians, as well as others outside the academy, that there is a need to build coherent curricula that is user friendly for both student learning and faculty productivity; the need to establish professional boundaries for educational collaboration between and among publics on and off campus; the need to create institutional cohesion and interdependence of resources toward the university or college mission; and finally, the need to connect curriculum aims with teaching strategies, students with faculty, the academy with the economy, and fiscal, human, technological and environmental resources toward the educational centrality and mission of the institution.

This synopsis describes how the York College Academic Vice President plans, and other chief academic officers could plan, to meet the challenges of the 1990's, at a time when resourcefulness, vision, and planning are viewed by many as among the necessary ingredients for contemporary leadership and institutional change. The following outlines some of the more compelling areas to consider for initiating and implementing a vision for institutional success. They represent hopefully thought-provoking issues to consider for readers interested in getting a synopsis of what it may take for the chief academic officer to be successful today and tomorrow on the college campus.

Renewing the Liberal Arts Undergraduate Experience: To act as a catalyst for providing undergraduate programs that develop student-centered competencies in critical thinking, leadership empowerment, intellectual inquiry, ethical values, human development, and most importantly, lifelong "discovery" - through the ongoing development of educational forums for discussion, dialogue, debate and deliberation. After all, it was Nobel Laureate, Albert Szentgyorgyi who metaphorically stated that "discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else, but thinking something different." This metaphor applies to physics as well as painting; biology as well as business; music as well as mathematics; English as well as engineering; art as well as accounting; language as well as literature; and history as well as humanities. Current and future chief academic officers might also consider doing something that we often fail to do as leaders - and that is, looking "inward." We all know from our own personal experiences during undergraduate studies what made us successful then as students to be successful now as academicians. What did that professor provide through the preceptorial advice that helped us make the decision for the academic major? What interactive classroom experience stimulated us to conduct research on our own? What was the role of academic advising and student services in providing support programs on our behalf? What was the title of that intriguing lecture or literature that held our attention and persuaded us to view the world so critically? And finally, how did the general education and disciplined-centered curricula bridge the learning gaps to foster the whole academic experience?

Cultivating Systemic Leadership: To facilitate the productive collaboration between sectors representing business, industry, government, education and other learning communities toward the mutual benefit of the academy and the economy, particularly in the urban milieu - utilizing skills in consensus building, participatory leadership and conflict resolution. It was the 29 year old President Robert Hutchins at the University of Chicago who once noted that "a university must be more than a collection of departments that are jointly connected by a mutual heating system." That heating system now extends beyond the perimeters of the collegiate campus and into the community, the economy, and the global market place. …

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