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Archive for October, 2014

j9810I have a new hero.  He is Edward Burger, current president of Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.   Why is he my hero?   Here are the reasons:

  1. Burger went directly from professor of mathematics at Williams College to being a university president.
  2. Burger built his reputation by being an innovative, thoughtful teacher-scholar.
  3. Burger is the author of one the most important books I have read “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking”
  4. Burger has articulated the essence of being an effective academic leader into just two simple principles: (1) a focus on life-changing teaching, and (2) the commitment to securing resources to support the university’s academics.

I first learned about Burger in an interview published in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled ‘A Professor in the President’s Chair: Pushing for a ‘Friendly Revolution’.  In this article, two quotes stick out:

There are only two branches to this job: No. 1, make sure students are getting the most profound, life-changing, life-enhancing educational experience they can, and, No. 2, make sure that 100 years from now, whoever’s sitting in this chair will have the resources so he or she can do the exact same thing. That’s all. Everything else is noise.

And

The biggest change we made was in our committee structure, which had consisted of councils and committees and task forces. I have amazing colleagues, but the system was so gridlocked that it basically prevented itself from doing business. Shared governance to me means I get to share the wisdom and counsel of my colleagues, but the system in place didn’t allow that. People now serve on fewer committees, but they meet more frequently and have more impact.

It will be interesting to follow the presidency of Edward Burger.   Personally, I believe that he is just the breath of fresh air that is needed in higher education.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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