I’m pleased to be here today to celebrate the graduation of the second class of ELATE fellows – this year there are 18 of you: Alexis, Jennifer, Naomi, Alisa, Molly, Julie, Kimberly, Kristi, Margaret, Diana, Janice, Ratna, Elena, Patricia, Margery, Anne-Marie, Hong, and Sara. Congratulations!
Having looked at the ELATE syllabus, I’m sure you worked hard in this program, while at the same time carrying on a full time normal workload at your institution. I could tell this by seeing your presentations and posters on your institutional action projects earlier today.
I’d like to reflect a bit on how I see leadership in The Academy.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but being a leader/manager in academia is much more challenging than being a faculty member in academia. If any of you has spent time in industry, you might notice that it’s more challenging managing in academia than managing in industry.
I can tell you from experience managing in three sectors: first as manager in various roles leading up to Sr. Vice President of 500 brilliant scientists and engineers at Bell Labs in industrial R&D, next as deputy director for Science and technology of 3500 fantastic scientists and engineers at a Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and now as a dean for the last 4 years of 85 superior faculty members in a new school just launched 6 years ago at Harvard - the complexities of academic leadership in a major research university have been definitely the most challenging for me.
Why is leadership in academia so challenging?
The modern US research university has as its core a faculty who are responsible, in the very important model of shared governance, for maintaining the standards of excellence in academics – the faculty search and vote on promotion and hiring in their ranks; they are responsible for the curriculum and for championing academic freedom, for leading the research and scholarship, and for admission and credentialing of students, as well as for maintaining academic and research integrity.
Your role as a faculty leader/manager and the role of the administration in general - is to provide the needed infrastructure and support - and some constructive leadership, nudging, guidance and feedback – to allow the faculty and students and their learning and research to flourish. Thus you as faculty leader are a coach - not a general, not a dictator. I like to think of the analogy of the academic leader to a conductor of an orchestra of gifted musicians. You must be respected, a great musician yourself, a coach to get every instrument playing in a coherent fashion to create beautiful music - and it helps to be humble!
As you rise up in the management ranks – from department chair to dean to provost to president - the orchestra becomes layered, tiered, dare I say organ - piped? and the music more complex. Your orchestra is playing next to several other orchestras – and your job is to bring all of them in harmony. Often they are not. Your role is to find the common principles and vision that motivate all the musicians and all the other conductors to work together rather than to degenerate into cacophony.
Welcome to leadership in academia!
You are all change agents! If you don’t think of yourself as a change agent you need to start thinking this way. Your institution needs you to be a change agent, though many in your institution – including most of the a-for-mentioned faculty, and probably more than a few administrators - will be allergens to any change. I want to take some time today to encourage you in your endeavors.
Great, sounds wonderful – you say, how do you get started as a change agent?
Your institutional action plans are the first step to leading change. Believe me, you will experience resistance as you are trying to interest people in your plan, however rational and needed your plan is – remember it is a change, and resistance to change is completely natural and you must not become easily discouraged. I suggest that you have 17 peers - your class at ELATE – as a support system for talking over how things are going for you. And of course, there are your ELATE teachers and those deans and provosts from your institution who nominated you to ELATE. Do lean on them for moral support.
As inspiration, we can look at what women change agents were able to accomplish in our own institutions: I was recently reading Lucy Allen Paton’s biography of Elisabeth Carey Agassiz written in 1919. Elisabeth Agassiz was the second wife of the great Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz, and a naturalist herself, who helped organize and manage several of their major exploration expeditions, took notes and wrote down all of Louis’ teachings, as well as three of her own natural history books and a biography of her late husband. She was one of the first women to be elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1869.
After Louis’ death, Elisabeth Aggasiz was instrumental in launching in 1882 the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women, otherwise known as the Harvard Annex, in which Harvard professors provided the same instruction to women students as they provided to Harvard men – at the time a completely radical idea. In 1883, the University's treasurer stated, "I have no prejudice in the matter of education of women and am quite willing to see Yale or Columbia take any risks they like, but I feel bound to protect Harvard College from what seems to me a risky experiment."
Elisabeth Agassiz was president of the Annex for 12 years, and through incredible power of persuasion was able to raise money for the Annex, expand its number of students, continue to attract Harvard professors to teach and to negotiate a deal with Harvard to launch under it’s auspices what came to be known as Radcliffe College, named after the first donor of a scholarship to Harvard in 1643, who happened to be a woman, Lady Ann Mowlson, whose maiden name was Radcliffe.
In her commencement address on the 10th anniversary of the Annex in 1892, one can hear the change agent in Elisabeth: ”The whole subject of collegiate education for women has advanced with amazing strides in the last ten years and our present students may wonder that I should speak of our first attempt as if it had been kind of exciting adventure. But I assure them that it had something of this character, for it was surrounded by obstacles and prejudices. Remonstrance and expostulation came to me from some of my nearest friends, who felt the dignity and reserve of Harvard were threatened and the whole tone of the College to be lowered. The Annex kept on its quiet way…”
Elisabeth Aggasiz became the first president of Radcliffe in 1894 - and the rest is history. The first joint degrees between Radcliffe and Harvard were in 1963, and Radcliffe students became Harvard students in 1977. The complete merger with Harvard happened in 1999. Today Harvard College is 50% women.
I look forward to observing similar accomplishments from all of the ELATE graduates in the next few years!