Leadership 101

By O'Brien, Patricia M. | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Leadership 101


O'Brien, Patricia M., Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Leadership 101 Veteran higher ed administrator weighs in on diversity, technology and college affordability. By Nannerl O. Keohane Duke University Press, 2006 280 pp., $24.95 ISBN: 082233786X

Indisputably, Nan Keohane has enjoyed a long and storied career in higher education. She has taught at Stanford University, Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania; spent a dozen years as president of Wellesley College, an elite liberal arts college for women; and was the first woman president of Duke University, one of the nation's leading research universities.

Her latest book, Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University is a compilation of articles, speeches and university addresses from the decade she spent at Duke's helm. It is a wide-ranging collection, with book chapters, articles from publications as such as the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society and College Board Review, and speeches to a variety of audiences, including Stanford's Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the American Council on Education and Southern Methodist University. At the end of the book are a half-dozen addresses to the Duke campus community.

Keohane writes both as a university leader and as a political scientist. In her introduction, she acknowledges the influence of Aristotle, Machiavelli, Rousseau and Weber on her thinking, as well as the inspiration of John Henry Newman, George Keller, Cohen and March, Jaroslav Pelikan, Charles Anderson, Dick Chait and Hanna Gray. Both lists will strike some as remarkable for their dearth of women and people of color.

In her essays and speeches, Keohane addresses major issues in higher education - diversity, technology, access and affordability - and opines on qualities needed for effective leadership. The book begins with an overview that presages major themes that appear throughout the various pieces and that, in some ways, anticipates readers' criticism of the book and attempts to answer it. For example, the book gives short shrift to concerns about the "corporatization" of higher education, and Keohane acknowledges this and responds to an imaginary "cynical reader's" criticism of her choice.

There is nothing earthshatteringly new here by way of insights into the challenges facing higher education or possible solutions. Readers of other books on higher education leadership will find themselves on familiar ground as Keohane expounds on the value of collaboration, while insisting on the need for presidents to take a stand - even an unpopular one - when necessary. …

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