All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Davidson College President’

President-elect Carol Quillen on Communication and Community at Davidson

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President-elect Carol Quillen at Beaver Dam (click for video).

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.

Help Wanted: President of Davidson College

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The Presidential Prospectus has been posted on Davidson’s Presidential Search page. I took a quick moment to scan it, then was quickly drawn in to read it all the way through. It is a particularly fine summary piece of writing about Davidson College at a particularly vital and hopeful time in our proud history. I commend it to the read-it-now list of all members of the Davidson community, near and far.

Excerpt: “The wider Davidson community— students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, trustees, and other friends of Davidson—together manifest great affection and dedication to the college. Without question, the college has been on a dynamic upward trajectory for decades and is now an exemplar of excellence. Not content to have Davidson rest on its laurels, however, the Davidson community is eager to engage in dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that will define the next chapter in the college’s evolution.”

Thanks, I needed that.