All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Carol Quillen’
It’s Alumni Reunion Weekend at Davidson, and there will be roughly as many alumni and entourage entities on campus for the next three days as there were studious students studying just a month ago, which is to say approaching 2000.
I can only imagine what will happen when both those populations break that next millenial barrier, which I’d wager will be soon.
For now, it’s a big ol’ party, with alumni piling into Cannon, Sentelle, Duke and Davis, the newest of Davidson’s down-the-hill digs. Stay tuned, I’ll be here all weekend.
As the campus comes alive with overlapping yesteryears, one Davidson student is headed right this red-hot minute for the World Cup race and Olympic selection event in London.
The last Common Hour of the semester at 11:05 a.m. Tuesday featured doughnuts—the ambrosial yeasty kind, not the crumbly ol’ cakey kind—and plenty of piping hot, Davidson-friendly S&D Coffee in the Lilly Family Gallery of Chambers Building. With exams and Christmas just around the corner, ’tis the season to micromanage blood sugar and serum caffeine levels around here. Miles to go before anybody sleeps, capiche? Why, in this very morning’s Crier e-newsletter, I saw announcements for no fewer than four (4) study breaks featuring cookies, ice cream, banana splits and, of course, coffee. It is a good time indeed to be working the Davidson beat, and could you please pass the insulin? [Note 1: R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology Julio Ramirez points Daybook to neuroscientific research on glucose and memory. Note 2: This week, in addition to the sugar and caffeine food groups, SGA is offering fruit and juice and milk and bagels, a welcome tip of the hat to nutritional diversity. Kudos!)
Back to the Lilly Gallery on Tuesday: With her customary podium panache—or perhaps “dais dash” would be a better term, as she is loath to stay put behind a podium—President Carol Quillen packed the hour with an update and Q&A with students, faculty and staff on what she’s been doing and thinking since she started work here at Davidson Aug. 1. To wit, for five months she’s been asking lots of questions of the whole Davidson family and assimilating the answers into general directions of strategic thought. I didn’t have a notepad handy (hello: busy consuming ambrosial doughnuts and piping hot coffee here), so I listened carefully and mentally noted three main directions of strategic thought, employing monosyllabic mnemonic devices that my own liberal-artsy noggin could remember long enough to haul itself back to my desk and ponder upon.
Who?—Who do we want at the Davidson of the unfolding 21st century? Perhaps more precisely, who do we want to be Davidson? Leaving aside anyone’s specific formulation of an answer to such a kitchen-sink question, answering it at all indubitably means more diversity of every kind at Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina, USA, the World, the Solar System, the Galaxy, the Universe, 2012 CE. So: how do we and how will we support the growing cultural diversity of our student body? Of our faculty? Staff? How will we support increasing religious diversity? Ethnic? Socioeconomic? Academic?…
What?—And what is academic diversity if not the essence of the liberal arts? Has been since the start, 1837 for us. But just as the academic requirements of, say, mid-American Century Davidson College were not the same as those of its earliest days as a manual-labor school, so now and looking forward, the posture of our college must not remain static in this, its terquasquicentennial (175th) year. Indeed, almost by definition, a liberal-arts educational posture is among the most dynamic of all, and always evolving. A recent revision of distribution requirements at Davidson is but one example. How else might this college want and need to change academically or otherwise to meet the exponentially faster-paced wants and needs of the 21st century, while staying true to the worthy traditions of the liberal arts in general and the college’s Statement of Purpose in particular?
When?—”When” is my imperfect word-association cue for a fascinating and complex topic that Quillen turned to new light, for me anyway. When Davidson students look to their futures, and when they in fact enter that world, how might the college continue to support them in new and important ways in their hero quests, their grand alumni adventures, to bring the kind of good into the world that Davidson alumni always have brought and, it is to be hoped, always will bring?
These are questions big enough and worthy enough to challenge the great, big, strong family that is Davidson students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends around the world. I, for one, accept.
Rainbow sprinkles on your globally-sourced doughnut, anyone?
I was just watching Carol Quillen’s video interviews in the news story of her selection as Davidson’s 18th president. (She’ll be on the job five weeks from Monday!)
The topic in one interview segment was how we communicate and how we live in community. Quillen’s starting point was the utterly familiar perspective of winners and losers in a black and white world, us versus them.
She ended at a point more nuanced, more realistic and, we must hope, more conducive to harmony in the world.
A history professor with a broad view, Quillen used her own career in higher education—from student debater to professor to senior administrator to leader in the realms of religious tolerance, global strategic thinking, interdisciplinarity, and diversity—as a backdrop for the logical progression of her thinking. Things she’d learned along her own way, in other words.
Quillen made the point that not every subject lends itself to debate in the formal definition, that a final answer of win-loss need not be the overriding point of every single exchange of ideas.
“Human beings are going to profoundly disagree on things that are very deeply important to them,” she said. “Hoping for agreement is naïve, in effect unhelpful, and occasionally unethical. How do you structure a conversation so that people are talking about things that matter the most to them, in a way that doesn’t anticipate agreement or resolution at the end?
“If you really want people to feel safe discussing their faith or their convictions,” Quillen continued, “you cannot create an environment of debate. It’s not helpful and it’s not respectful.
“So how do you create a safe space for people to talk about their very real differences: differences in values, differences in commitment, differences in belief?
“How do you create that space such that people leave, not necessarily agreeing, which is impossible, but confident that they’ve found a path to coexist in peace?”
As Davidson College continues to grow to mirror the world we live in—and the world we want to live in—our collective questions are more important than any one individual’s answers.
In fact, the questions are perhaps the point, as we humans learn to ask them openly, respectfully, and together.
Kudos to everyone involved in the search for Davidson’s 18th president, especially trustee chair Mackey McDonald ’68 and my very own classmate Kristin Hills Bradberry ’85, who headed the search committee. It was masterfully orchestrated and executed from beginning to end, top to bottom, last-minute plane trip to late-night conference call, right down to the final coconut square, which I ate, at the reception, which just ended.
President-Elect Carol Quillen will begin work Aug. 1. Beyond her impressive homepage bio information and clips, I can so far report that up close, Quillen has a confident handshake, a winning smile, and a sincerity and warmth of engagement with just the right smidge of je ne sais quoi. Her carefully prepared remarks were right on with the mission and hallmarks of Davidson College, past, present, and—I’m betting on it—future. Her subsequent extemporaneous stroll across the stage trolling for questions was a perfect counterpoint of humor and self-assurance.
Before Quillen was introduced, the Duke Family Performance Hall was packed with both gownies and townies when Kristin and McDonald took the stage. I caught the catch in Kristin’s voice when she thanked our interim President of Davidson (iPOD) John Kuykendall and his wife Missy. They have been mentors to Kristin, as to many, as to me, and I for one am glad they lived here in Davidson before and will continue to live here after this presidential interimcy. Interimlude. His second stint in the president’s office.
When McDonald took the mic to introduce the new president, I noted his care in letting two important bits of information peep out before the official introduction: the pronoun “she,” and the fact that the person he was about to introduce did not go to college at Davidson. Quillen is indeed Davidson’ first female president, and its first non-alumnus/a since John Rood Cunningham (1941-57). Introducing those two noteworthy facts separately from the person herself was a subtle nuance of qualification without label or distraction that permitted everyone I spoke with over coconut squares to come together in a message of broadest support for our new fearless leader. It is this:
Davidson College thinks you’re the best person for the job of leading us forward, Carol Quillen—with imagination and, as you said today, “re-imagination.” We welcome you!