|Welcome Back from the Senate Chair
August 27, 2013,
Volume 60, No. 2
On Knowledge and Self-Knowledge
Welcome to the new academic year!
With orientation notices for new students, the Penn Reading Project and the Year of Sound announcements, final touches being placed on office and classroom renovations, submission of the last drafts of course syllabi and more, we can all sense the start of a new academic year at Penn. In many ways, this time of year is truly our academic New Year’s celebration, and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation. I trust you are as well.
When describing the University to outsiders, I most often think in terms of knowledge. Penn is a premier institution that creates, integrates and disseminates knowledge. This has been true since the time of Benjamin Franklin and it continues to be true to this day. This emphasis on knowledge in its various forms—from theoretical to applied, from the sciences to the humanities to the professions—is a perfect description of our attributes as an institution.
There are, of course, other various types of knowledge. Author Warren Bennis in his book, On Becoming a Leader, describes one of these other types—that is self-knowledge. His claim is that we can most effectively understand, help and lead others when we first understand ourselves. Very simply, self-management comes before the management of others. One of the observations of Bennis on self-knowledge is that we can learn anything we want to learn. I think his creative view on self-knowledge and learning is exactly on target. Of course there are a number of ways to gain this self-knowledge. Bennis suggests several options such as taking on new roles, the practice of new accomplishments, and the validation of results through feedback. Try small low-risk experiments to see what works for you. Each of these methods require self-reflection, something that seems almost old-fashioned in the 21st century but something that I find useful for both my students and for myself as we consider ways to enhance our own styles of leadership.
In addition to the academic knowledge we know so well and that drives us in both our research and in our teaching, I urge you to join my students and me in taking additional time for implementing small experiments and using self-reflection during this coming semester so that you may first enhance your understanding of yourself . . . . in order that you can better understand those around you. This is a wonderful way to enhance our own leadership capabilities at Penn and elsewhere.
With regard to the Faculty Senate, we have had an excellent year under the leadership of Professor Susan Margulies, now past-chair. Here we welcome Professor Claire Finkelstein, chair-elect. In light of the well-received symposium last year, The Future of Research-Intensive Institutions of Higher Learning, we are planning a spring symposium for this year as well. More information will be available later this semester.
In the Senate we have said farewell to Ms. Sue White, now working in the Provost’s Office. We will all miss her readiness to help and her wisdom. We now welcome the talented Ms. Vicki Hewitt as Faculty Senate Executive Assistant. Ms. Hewitt is completing her dissertation for her EdD degree at Penn and comes to us from her previous position in the Law School. She can be reached at email@example.com or (215) 898-6943.
Although service to Penn may often seem to be a last-minute addition to our other recognized responsibilities of research and teaching, I have found that service to Penn through participation in shared-governance is a profoundly rewarding experience. It is a practice where we have a chance to give back to others and to an institution whose future is as a bright as its past. I thank all of you who have participated in this form of service while at Penn, and I encourage you to try it if you haven’t yet participated. If you have ideas, questions or suggestions regarding the Faculty Senate or would like to become more involved, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a wonderful semester, and an academic year filled with small experiments and knowledge of all kinds.
Warmest regards and best wishes,