Sunday, November 05, 2006

President's Council dinner

Just got back from the President's Council dinner. It's a landmark evening in many ways. We've just finished our ABET visit and the NEASC decision is coming soon (both major accreditation agencies), we're going through our first curriculum revision where we don't have to reinvent future course years from scratch, and Larry Milas, the man behind the founding of the "whole damn college,"* is stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Trustees tomorrow.

Strangely enough, almost 9 years (minus about a week) tomorrow, Olin College was a piece of paper, a few people, and a dream. We've only been around as a blue sky idea for about that long. 9 years ago they had that piece of paper, and most of us students and alumni were kids in elementary or middle school, playing ball at recess, riding bikes, (or in my case) discovering math in our bedroom closets in the middle of the night.

The dinner tonight was filled with visitors from industry and academia. Presidents and past presidents of colleges, CEOs, CIOs, board members of major companies, VPs and chairs. One question I heard multiple times from multiple people is "what is entrepreneurship?" and "are you an entrepreneur?" Everyone there said that entrepreneurship was about making things happen, not making money (a common misconception). There seems to be plenty of call for integrating that more deeply into the curriculum.

The biggest thing that struck me tonight was how open they were for change, how enthusiastic, how encouraging. As DJ put it, "it's very heartening that people that high up in the administrative chain are having thoughts that radical." The other thing that struck me was how open and friendly these folks were. They're amazing friends and teachers to our instutition, but they're also here to learn from us - I hope I'll be able to maintain that kind of humility when I'm older.

Even if we can't do many (or any - although I hope we'll do some) of the crazy things being proposed, just to know that they're under consideration warms my heart. (Although as Amanda so wisely brought up, we've got to be careful not to innovate wantonly for the sake of just doing something different. 'Tho this be madness, there's method in 't.")

And then I got back to the dorms and Mark brings in some homemade bread and blackberry jam. It's been a good night.

Lots of things to think about. But I've got a lot to do and an early wake-up call for the meeting tomorrow, so I'll have to swing out for the evening.

* The original quote is "why don't you build your own damn college?" from Margie Milas.

2 comments:

Ash said...

Nicely Said Mel.

Cheryl said...

whoa. who's gonna be the new chair?