Leadership for today

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“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”

On November 19, 151 years ago, these powerful words of President Abraham Lincoln echoed across the national cemetery in Gettysburg over the graves of more than 3,500 Union soldiers. Of course, Lincoln underestimated the staying power of his words. We have long remembered what he said on that day—and we continue to be moved by the simple humility in these words and Lincoln’s deference to those who “gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Lincoln arrived in Gettysburg via an invitation from David Wills, a Gettysburg College (then Pennsylvania College) alumnus and community leader who requested the president deliver “a few appropriate remarks” on behalf of the fallen.

The town was broken. Gettysburg had witnessed firsthand a nation ripping itself apart—a three-day battle that saw the number of dead, wounded, and missing top 50,000. Gettysburg College’s central administration building, Pennsylvania Hall, became a hospital where more than 700 wounded and dying were treated.

The bloodiest battle of the Civil War swept through our community in an instant, leaving death, destruction, and anguish in its wake.

The community needed a moment of healing. And it needed leadership.

The chief orator at the ceremony devoted to the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery was Edward Everett. He had been asked to deliver the keynote address. Words defined Everett. As one of the great orators of his time, Everett crafted a 13,607-word speech.

Like the Greek orators he idolized, he elegantly described vivid details of the battle and interwove themes of remembrance and reconciliation over the course of two hours. The speech was brilliant, eliciting tears from some of the townspeople who attended.

But Everett’s words would never “stick” with the American public.

Then Lincoln rose to speak—10 sentences, 2 minutes, a mere 272 words.

This was a moment of great leadership. Lincoln’s words were not flowery. His focus was not on rhetoric, but on action—our “unfinished work,” the “great task remaining before us.”

Those 272 words still inspire us today.

We live in a time of change and challenge, in a world that has become tightly interconnected and that is experiencing change at a dizzying pace, accelerated by technology—a world that is reeling from violence, strife, hunger, and disease.

Clearly, there are great tasks remaining before us. So how will we tackle our challenges? How will we address the unfinished work of today?

The answers do not lie in divisiveness and long-winded rhetoric. Instead, we need humility, collaboration, and a focus on action. We need to embrace the approach so clearly laid out by Lincoln 151 years ago.

One-on-one with Dr. Jeanne Arnold, Gettysburg’s New Chief Diversity Officer

This August, we welcomed Dr. Jeanne Arnold to our campus as Gettysburg College’s Chief Diversity Officer. Dr. Arnold joins us from Grand Valley State University in Michigan, where she served for seven years as their Vice President for Inclusion and Equity. Prior to her appointment at Grand Valley State, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania, where she served as Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs from 2003 to 2007, and as Director of the African American Resource Center from 1995 to 2003. She holds a Masters in Social Work and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

I sat down with Jeanne to ask her about her first few weeks at the College and her plans for Gettysburg as our Chief Diversity Officer.

Dr. Jeanne Arnold

Dr. Jeanne Arnold

Janet: The role of a Chief Diversity Officer is a relatively new one in higher education. What do you enjoy most about this role?

Jeanne: I enjoy collaborating with others to help change organizational cultures so that they are more responsive and welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds—particularly those from populations underrepresented in higher education. I also like to build and enhance infrastructures (processes, protocols, policies, etc.) that support inclusion. First and foremost, I’m trained as a social worker, and social workers thrive on being change agents.

Janet: What excites or inspires you about taking on this role at Gettysburg College, in particular?

Jeanne: I’m excited about doing this work at Gettysburg because the College already holds high key values that are important to me both personally and professionally. The concepts of service, social justice, and the worth and dignity of all people are also core values deeply embedded in the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics. These shared values give us a great foundation or common understanding to build on for our inclusion work.

Janet: What are some of your priorities for the fall semester?

Jeanne: I plan to meet with every faculty member and as many staff, students, and administrators as possible. I want to learn more about their experiences at Gettysburg College, and to gather ideas for goals and initiatives to be included in our first campus diversity strategic plan. A draft of the plan should be ready for distribution back to the campus community for comment early in the spring semester. I will also work with the College’s Diversity Commission and others to develop a process for the next campus climate study.

Janet: How soon can we expect to see positive change or to accomplish our diversity and inclusion goals?

Jeanne: Organizational change is described in the literature as a multi-year process (Kezar, 2001). While that fits with my prior experience, it doesn’t mean that incremental changes can’t take place along the way. We’re fortunate to have a set of recommendations from Gettysburg’s 2013 Diversity Commission report that I can get started on right away. Other necessary changes will be identified through the diversity strategic plan and from the results of a forthcoming campus climate study. The pace of change will also be guided by the fact that Diversity and Inclusion is a two-person office and will rely heavily on the availability of collaborators from across the campus to meet our goals. I’ve had some good conversations already, and am looking forward to collaborating with various individuals and groups across campus.

Janet: On a personal note, what do you like to do in your free time?

Jeanne: I’m really an introvert, so I enjoy my quiet time and reading. I do like to go to the movies from time to time, and in the summer I love going to the beach. Most of my free time is actually spent hanging out with family and friends or working with my sorority, which I’ve been active in since my junior year at Penn State. I did pull myself way out of my comfort zone last year though by taking ballroom dance lessons. That was one of the things on my bucket list.

Janet: Any last thoughts or reflections?

Jeanne: I’m grateful for this opportunity to provide leadership for Gettysburg College’s diversity and inclusion efforts. I know that we can accomplish our goals by working together as a community.

We look forward to Dr. Arnold’s leadership of our College’s diversity efforts.

 

 

Achieving More Together

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A few years ago, I had a conversation about college collaboration with Washington & Jefferson College’s president, Tori Haring-Smith. We discussed the fact that Pennsylvania is home to a rather remarkable group of high quality liberal arts colleges—each of which has its own distinctive character—and we wondered if we could bring these colleges together in a more collaborative way.

Were there things we struggled with independently that we could more effectively accomplish together?

Were there possibilities for expertise-sharing or cost-sharing that would benefit us all?

Would a group of colleges, some of whom compete with one another for students, be able to overcome their normal competitive framework to work together cooperatively?

To test this idea, Tori and I invited a small group of college presidents to meet in Gettysburg in November 2012. After a thought-provoking discussion, we asked The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to provide us with a small grant that would allow us to explore our ideas further. Over the course of the next year, various administrative officers from several Pennsylvania colleges met to discuss the potential for collaboration. We were inspired by these conversations, and again wrote the Mellon Foundation—this time to secure funding that would allow us to put these ideas into action.

I’m proud to share with you that the Mellon Foundation has recently informed us that they will provide $800,000 to support this collaborative project. Over the next three years, Gettysburg will join Bryn Mawr, Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall, Haverford, Juniata, Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, Ursinus, and Washington & Jefferson to test out a new partnership, the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts (PCLA).

Together we’ll search for ways we can collaborate to share resources and expertise in seven core areas: academic programs, faculty development, study abroad, library resources, administrative services, compliance and risk management, and institutional climates for diversity. Some practical examples of these collaborations could include the increased use of technology to share courses across our campuses; combined faculty workshops and study abroad programs; and shared resources in health plans, IT security, and purchasing. You can learn more about the Mellon Foundation’s generous grant and our project on the Gettysburg College website.

While we don’t yet know the extent to which this effort will benefit our institutions, its potential is great. At a time when there is heightened concern about the cost of higher education, I believe that it is our responsibility as colleges and universities to experiment with new ways of “doing business”—new techniques that have the potential to help us contain costs, while allowing us to provide the high quality and personal education for which our institutions are known. Gettysburg is proud to be a founding member of the PCLA and we look forward to exploring the potential of this new partnership.

Supporting lives of service

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Last week, we were pleased to host on our campus hundreds of leaders from the government, nonprofit sector, military, corporate world, higher education, and media for the Franklin Project’s Summit at Gettysburg. An initiative of the Aspen Institute, the Franklin Project envisions a future in which “at least one year of full-time national service [would] be a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American.” The leaders of the Project have made it their mission to build support and momentum for advancing this idea.

Over the three-day conference, I listened to many inspirational testimonials about the value of service and stories of corporations supporting service by their employees. I was ready to put forward my own suggestions about how we in higher education could support meaningful service opportunities for our students that prepare and motivate them for a post-graduate year of service and for lives of civic engagement. After all, as one of only 5 recipients of the 2013 Presidential Higher Education Award for Community Service, Gettysburg College has been recognized as a leader in the area of public service.

However, when the Summit conversation turned to the role of higher education in this initiative, I was surprised to hear colleges and universities chastised for being “out of step.” Some participants suggested that the full-time year of service should be part of a college degree—that colleges should take on the financial responsibility for this service year, and that academic requirements should be waived or academic credit awarded in exchange for students’ service terms.

These expectations raise some serious questions. Who would provide the financial support for this service year—the students, the government, the college or university, or an outside organization?  How would we accommodate students who increasingly seek to graduate in less than four years? What about the large number of part-time students who work their way through college? What impact would losing one full year of academic instruction have on preparation for graduate or professional school?  Would there be universally accepted competencies associated with completion of the service year, and how would those be evaluated? And what about those students who do not attend a four-year institution?

DCCentralKitchenThese questions point to the complexity—and possible pitfalls—inherent in embedding a year of service within the college degree. I would also argue that the developmental approach to service that we practice at Gettysburg College is at least as effective in instilling habits of service and citizenship as the one-year-of-service model espoused by the Franklin Project.

In short, I think there is more work ahead to determine if one model can fit the social and financial concerns of every young American—let alone every young American attending college. I came away from the Summit with some thoughts about how we as colleges and universities can promote public service as a core value in our next generation of citizens—whether or not the Franklin Project takes root:

  1. Provide our students with opportunities and a meaningful framework for service during their time on our campuses.  As we prepare students for successful professional and civic lives, we must provide them with a holistic understanding of citizenship—as well as an understanding of the systemic issues that call them to serve in the first place. As colleges and universities, we have the unique opportunity to weave themes of public service, social justice, community partnerships, and civic action into our classrooms, co-curricular activities, and campus conversations.

    For example, many of our students volunteer at our college-run Campus Kitchen, which provides meals to families in need. While our students’ work to provide food is crucial, we are also committed to educating them about the social and legislative roots of hunger, to connecting them with community members experiencing hunger who can share their stories, and to providing them with perspectives that they will carry into their civic lives beyond Gettysburg. We hope that this experience will inspire them to lead lives of advocacy, voting, and continued work to eradicate the issue of hunger in our communities.

  1. Provide clarity about the value of service in the admissions process. Many students, especially first-generation college students, may not know that there are year-long service opportunities that provide a bridge from high school to college—let alone that they are considered and often valued as part of the admissions process. Colleges and universities need to be clear about the role of service in admissions decisions, as well as the option for enrollment deferral for students committing to public service prior to enrolling in college.
  1. Celebrate alumni who are engaged in service. Our students (and their parents!) need to know that careers in service are valuable. All too often—especially in the face of debates about the value of a college degree—colleges are pressured to elevate alumni who have achieved financial success. While these individuals and their achievements are noteworthy and commendable, we must also send a clear message to our students that lives committed to community, nation, and world, are equally valuable.  
  1. Help our students find post-graduation service opportunities and careers. Once our students see the value of service, we need to connect them with opportunities to serve. Our career centers and counselors should be just as familiar with AmeriCorps and Peace Corps application processes as they are with law school and medical school admissions requirements; our alumni databases should have just as many mentors in the service sectors as they have in the business and finance industries; and our job fairs should include numerous opportunities for post-graduate service programs. Students with loan obligations or graduate school plans should be informed about loan deferment or educational stipends for those who engage in service, and those interested in serving between college and the workplace should receive guidance about service positions that will help them transition smoothly between the two. 
  1. Stress the role that colleges and universities play in promoting public service. Those of you who follow my blog—here and on The Huffington Postknow that I have some very clear ideas about what President Obama should consider as he prepares to launch a federal ratings system for colleges and universities.  If we as a nation truly value the role of public service among our youth, then we must encourage external ranking organizations to consider the inclusion of service in evaluating colleges and universities.

I am proud to say that Gettysburg College has already done much to embrace these strategies.

Colleges and universities are in a unique position to prepare informed and engaged citizens, and to help young people develop strong habits of public service and a sense of civic responsibility.  I admire the goals of the Franklin Project’s leaders and hope that together we can determine and create strong pathways to service and responsible citizenship.

Our “Gettysburg Tattoo”

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On Commencement Day, May 18th, we welcomed 660 graduating seniors into our community of Gettysburg alumni. Each year, I am inspired by our new graduates’ accomplishments and idealism, and this year was no different.

Our Commencement speaker, Flora Darpino ’83, urged the Class of 2014 to embrace challenge and to not let the fear of failure become an obstacle to success. This message rang true for a group of students that has already been willing to step out of their comfort zones and push themselves to new heights. More than half of the Class of 2014 has studied abroad, nearly 80% of them have engaged in public service, many of them have conducted research with a faculty member, a few have been fortunate enough to play on nationally-competitive athletic teams—and they all have received an outstanding liberal arts education.

One of my favorite parts of Commencement is hearing our students describe the ways in which their Gettysburg College experience has forever changed them. The Class of 2014 speaker, Brandon Tower, made this point brilliantly:

In August of 2010, we—660 of us—converged on this hallowed ground from all corners of the Earth… from diverse backgrounds, experiences, native languages, genders, races—and what occurred was a “big bang.” From the randomness of the universe, there was something created so beautiful from chaos, 660 different bodies in motion converging on the exact same place at the exact same time. And, from this moment on, we were different—we had affected each other permanently without even knowing it yet… Class of 2014, a town and a place and a college that have so enormously shaped our nation too have shaped us and left us forever changed in the best way possible—and forever prepared to confront whatever our lives and the world throws in our direction.”

What a powerful statement about the impact of a Gettysburg education! Brandon reminds us that each of our graduates takes with them not only a unique set of memories, skills, and experiences; they also take with them a new identity that will indelibly connect them with their classmates for years to come: the identity of a Gettysburgian.

Our community of Gettysburgians extends well beyond four years here on campus. We are a community that gathers in cities and towns around the nation and the world, that makes significant contributions to society, and that has the ability to collectively achieve great things. As he welcomed his fellow classmates into a community now more than 27,000 strong, Brandon noted a mark they now bear together with their fellow Gettysburgians; regardless of major, class year, or path taken, each of them would leave that day with their own “Gettysburg tattoo.”

This weekend, we’ll welcome back hundreds of Gettysburgians from classes ending in 4’s and 9’s to celebrate their class Reunions. Each of these individuals will bring with them their own set of Gettysburg experiences—experiences that are unique, but that also bind them together as a community that spans over 50 years. It is always good to feel the power of those bonds as we welcome Gettysburgians home.

A Global Gettysburg

Last week, we were pleased to welcome Dr. Allan Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education, to our campus. During his visit, we told Dr. Goodman about our work to bring an international perspective to our students’ experience, and asked him how we might enhance our students’ preparation for professional and civic responsibility in an increasingly interconnected world.

While Dr. Goodman gave us some ideas to consider, he also shared some encouraging news: Gettysburg College is already doing an excellent job in this area—better than 80% of U.S. colleges and universities.

With Dr. Goodman’s assessment on my mind, I was struck by the number of times a global perspective came into focus throughout the remainder of the day’s activities. Later that morning, I participated in a meeting to discuss a faculty trip to India in May to study food security and connect with Indian scholars in their academic fields. During this gathering, we also discussed an upcoming meeting with Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development and Office of International Business Development, during which we hope to explore opportunities for increased educational partnerships with India and increased Indian student recruitment.

That afternoon, our faculty meeting was devoted to the topic of internationalization, and our Internationalization Coordinating Committee shared their draft global learning outcomes for our students. While mingling after the meeting, I spoke to two faculty members who are taking their classes abroad—one to Paris over spring break, and another to Trinidad and Tobago at the end of semester.

Next, I headed across campus to attend a reception for our first-year foreign language scholars—a group of students who placed into advanced foreign language courses during their first semester at Gettysburg, and who plan continued language coursework and study abroad experiences.

Professors Alan Perry (center) and Elizabeth Richardson Viti (right) meet with first-year language scholars.

Professors Alan Perry (center) and Elizabeth Richardson Viti (right) meet with first-year foreign language scholars.

Upon returning home that evening, I picked up our winter edition of the Gettysburg Magazine and read the article about Kanji expert Bret Mayer ’04—the first person outside of Eastern Asia to master the Japanese Kanji Aptitude Test. (That same magazine features an article about David Wemer ’14, who received an award from the American Historical Society on his work on economic transition in Slovakia; a short piece on Professor Brent Talbot’s trip to Bali with twelve Sunderman Conservatory students to learn Gamelan; and a story on how Peter ’86 and Kim Erskine carried their passion for travel and artisan-produced goods from around the world into a successful business venture.)

As I reflected on the day, I realized that it wasn’t particularly extraordinary. Perhaps that’s because global education is becoming such an important part of the Gettysburg experience—including nearly 100 study abroad programs in 50 countries, an increasing number of international students who are studying on our campus, majors dedicated to foreign language and cultures, courses throughout the College that integrate international themes and global issues, and service-learning immersion experiences around the world.

Chinese Language students visited Philadelphia's Chinatown this fall, where they toured with Master Chef Joseph Poon to learn more about Chinese traditions and culture.

Chinese Language students visited Philadelphia’s Chinatown this fall, where they toured with Master Chef Joseph Poon to learn more about Chinese traditions and culture.

Over the next few months, you’ll hear about our plans to transform Plank Gym into a global pavilion, and our efforts to bring increased focus to our global programs and to provide new opportunities for their integration. These initiatives are of great importance as we prepare Gettysburg students to be active leaders and participants in a changing and increasingly globally interconnected world.

From classroom experiences to out-of-classroom ventures to alumni pursuits, there is no question that Gettysburg is going global!

East Meets West – the Sunderman Conservatory goes to China

Sunderman Conservatory students perform with students from Shaanxi Normal University.

Sunderman Conservatory students perform with students from Shaanxi Normal University.

A few days ago, Ed and I returned from a trip to China with Gettysburg College’s wind symphony who toured China and Singapore over the break between semesters. Sadly, we had to come back to Gettysburg as the group was leaving for the final leg of the trip in warm and sunny Singapore! Led by Director of Bands and Associate Professor of Music Russell McCutcheon, the tour, aptly named East Meets West, provided our students with a taste of China and Singapore and an opportunity for cultural exchange. Concerts at a variety of universities included a range of music from John Philip Sousa’s Hands Across the Sea to Chen Yi’s Spring Festival and Dragon Rhyme. Our musicians performed superbly and in some venues had the opportunity to meet with Chinese musicians and exchange some music with them. Between concerts, we visited many well-known sites in Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, and Suzhou. Along the way we shared rides on buses, boats, and rickshaws; improved our chopsticks skills; enjoyed tea with every meal; shared lots of laughs; and developed great camaraderie. Two students, Jane Best and David Dalton, kept a blog of the trip, which provides a great description of the tour and our various activities.

A group of us decided to climb the Great Wall. It was incredible!

A group of us decided to climb the Great Wall. It was incredible!

As I said to the students one night, I knew this group was capable, bright, and musically talented before we left. What I found out while traveling with them is that they also have great spirit and self-discipline. Not only were they terrific traveling companions, but they were also fabulous ambassadors for Gettysburg College. It was truly a privilege to travel with this group and to get to know these students better. I could not have been prouder of them!

Lionel Hong '12 joined us to help translate (Shanghai)

Lionel Hong ’12 joined us to help translate (Shanghai).

I was also touched by the fact that several parents of our Chinese students drove long distances to come to our concerts and receptions, as this was their first opportunity for direct contact with Gettysburg College. In addition, some of our alumni and current Chinese students who had traveled home for the break came to the concerts and receptions. One student traveled 8 hours by train to be with his “Gettysburg College family.” I am always struck by the power of the Gettysburg College bond, but never have I felt it more strongly than I did at these events on the other side of the world.