Skip to main content

Address

ICC 650
Box 571014

37th & O St, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20057

maps & directions
Contact

Phone: (202) 687.6400

Email: provost@georgetown.edu

 

Progress on the Racial Justice Initiatives

Posted on

On February 4, 2016, President Degioia articulated a clear urgency for Georgetown to address the continuing legacies of slavery and racial injustice. He launched a new initiative “…because our social and political culture has not been remedied; and, in fact, from a set of recent events, it has deteriorated; because there is a holy impatience among the African-American community that delay is just another way of saying NO; because the moral imperative for complete social justice continues to summon us not to discussion but to action and that summons will not go away–we ignore social morality at our peril.

There were several key features of the initiative: 1) the construction of a new academic unit with faculty devoted to the teaching of an African-American Studies undergraduate major, minor, and elective courses, 2) the building of a Research Center on Racial Justice, 3) the establishment of PhD fellowships and postdoctoral fellowships to help staff the Center, 4) the recruitment of new faculty to staff the academic unit and the research unit, and 5) the establishment of a senior administrative officer to help faculty recruitment with an aim to enhancing the representation of faculty of color at Georgetown.

A Working Group of faculty, staff, and students has been meeting for several weeks.1 I thought it might be a good time to let everyone know how the work is proceeding.

The group first discussed alternative plans for the academic unit. The group decided it would best if it were a department in the College and drafted a mission statement for the unit. It would have both 100% tenure-line faculty, joint appointments with units from other campuses and schools, and, if necessary, non-tenure-line faculty. The department would have an annual budget, by-laws governing its work, and a reporting line to the Dean of the College. Joint appointments between African-American Studies and other units would have formal memoranda of understanding with other units, which specified the rights and responsibilities of the jointly-appointed faculty member and the two units involved. A chair of the department would be recommended by the core faculty and forwarded to the president, as with all department chairs, for final appointment. Current Georgetown faculty, who were previously active in the African-American Studies program, have been polled regarding their anticipated role in the new department.

The working group then tackled the recruitment of the faculty for the initiative. It decided to launch a search for four faculty members of open rank for the African-American Studies Department. The group drafted an advertisement for all four positions simultaneously, in order to underscore the institutional commitment to the initiative. The searches mounted in academic year 2016-2017 will recruit core faculty members to the department, those whose citizenship is primarily focused on the department. The searches planned for 2017-2018 will focus more fully on the leadership of the Research Center.

The Graduate School is re-establishing the Healy fellowships for graduate student support, which we hope might also benefit the Research Center.

The Working Group is now beginning to discuss the desirable attributes of the Research Center. President Degioia specified that the Center will be a university-wide entity, and one of the topics of discussion is how best to ensure the sustainable health of such a unit at Georgetown. It has already realized that there are many faculty members whose scholarship might be relevant to the Center. Hence, it is considering how best to get input from those faculty members on the future outlines of the Center.

The Working Group is on schedule with its task as assigned by the president. We will meet over the summer to extend our work. With each meeting, the group reminds itself how important a task they have been given. We have much more to do, but we are making progress on this important initiative for Georgetown.

Footnotes

1 The members of the working group are Reena Aggarwal, Paul Butler, Soyica Colbert, Robert Groves, Edward Healton, Maurice Jackson, Rosemary Kilkenny, Charles King, Gwen Mikell, Angelyn Mitchell, Jasmin Ouseph, Robert Patterson, Precious Stephens-Ihedigbo, William Treanor, Edilma Yearwood.

Thanking the Faculty Who Shape Minds and Spirits

Posted on

At this point in my life I have heard and read many commencement speeches. They tend to have common themes: this day is not an end but a beginning; your generation has the opportunity to succeed on problems that my generation has failed to solve; you are our hope of building a better world, etc.

These are all good thoughts and I must force myself to remember that most graduates don’t hear them as often as I do. They might seem much fresher to them than to me.

Most speakers also note that the students could not have succeeded without the support of their parents and extended families. In fact, some note that, for each graduate, this day is a celebration of a whole network’s success. This note is absolutely true, and often leads to an opportunity for the graduates to warmly thank their parents and family members. This is good.

It’s noticeable to me, however, over the years, that few speakers make similar remarks about the faculty. By implication, but I believe, completely unintentionally, one can get the impression that with the families and students’ work, sufficient resources exist to produce the graduates’ success.

From inside the academy, however, that picture of higher education becomes quite inadequate.

The faculty are the diagnosticians of impediments to clear thinking. We see them work with individual students to discern what cognitive blocks prevent understanding material in a course. We see them return draft papers filled with constructive comments on ways for more effective verbal expression. We see them push students to think more deeply about readings, to extract successively more sophisticated understanding of text, to discern the layered meanings of works. The faculty nurture the day-by-day intellectual growth of the students.

The faculty breed the facility of comprehending alternative viewpoints on the same “facts.” We see them lead discussions of students with diverse backgrounds. They use the inherently different perspectives among classmates to help the students teach each other. While the faculty are focused on conveying facts and current knowledge of a field, they are also teaching how to acquire and assess new perspectives on a problem. Exploiting the diversity within the students in the class, they are simultaneously teaching all how to foster effective dialogue in a complicated, diverse world. When they succeed, the students are more effective collaborators in joint work in their work lives.

The faculty are guides to the skills of self-teaching. By providing introductions to students to original inquiry (through group projects, written papers, etc.), they pass on skills of immersing oneself in a new domain of knowledge. When they succeed,d they have helped shape a mind that is resilient to the rapidly changing terrain of knowledge.

They are the counselors of synthesis. They, in quiet meetings in their offices, address the puzzle each student faces of how to integrate their new knowledge into a life’s work compatible with their own spirit. They help the student see alternative ways forward and give trusted assessments of the student’s area of strengths. They sometimes energize an alumni network that lands the start of a work career.

So, while the commencement appropriately focuses on the graduates and their family support, it’s important to remember the role of faculty in their achieving that success. They are the lifeblood feeding successive generations of women and men for others.

A Campus in Waiting

Posted on

It’s one of the quietest weeks on campus. Classes are over. Exams are in process.

The place has a very different feel. Red Square is empty most of the time, with students occasionally scurrying through the rain with disheveled hair and sleepless eyes to deliver final papers to faculty offices. Others come in clumps, walking deliberately to classrooms to take final examinations, looks of seriousness and purpose writ large.

A group has chalked out various inspirational phrases on the brick of Red Square. Some remind the readers that they are wonderful. Others, that they will succeed. My favorite: “You are degioia my life.” But the overall atmosphere is very quiet. Lauinger Library is packed, at all hours; some students are sleeping but most are intent on reading, writing notes, and testing themselves on class material. The whole feel is more monastic than two weeks ago, when the campus was filled with shouting and Frisbee groups and tables with student organizations hawking their work.

It seems like it has been raining in DC for forty days and forty nights; today, it’s a light mist reminiscent of London. Despite this, gardeners and workmen are sprucing up the plantings, painting some interior and exterior surfaces, and generally making the campus more presentable for inevitable waves of parents who will arrive next week for commencement ceremonies. Whenever the sun comes out, the whole scene is fresh with blossoming flowers and plants, incredibly new-green ivy leaves, and a general feel of renewal and growth.

Outside the gates, there are storage services for students that are filling up trucks and storage pods with labeled boxes, small refrigerators, and some furniture. There are two rival used-book purchasers taking in textbooks that are still warm from intense last minute use prior to exams.

Soon the underclassmen will start moving out, and we’ll see roller bags noisily being dragged across campus to waiting shuttle buses, Uber cars, and taxis. The bags will be bigger on these trips than those for Spring Break. We’ll see the big ones, way too large for carry-on, stuffed to their limits. The faces will have different expressions – a lightness, a lot of smiling, but still a sleepy, over-caffeinated shell. There will be many goodbyes and hugs at the gates. All will pledge they’ll be in touch.

Of course, next week another transformation takes place — full joy overload. Proud parents, beaming grandparents, introductions of family to friends, laughing about old stories of years on the Hilltop. It is a week of rituals surrounding accomplishment.

But for now, there’s pervasive silence. It’s ironic that the end of all the energy and noise and excitement of the term is so quiet.

Living up to our Invitation to First-Gen Students in the Sciences

Posted on

This is a good news blog. It reports on a challenge that Georgetown has known it can tackle and a wonderful alumni gift that will allow it to do so.

We at Georgetown have demonstrated exemplary success at recruiting very strong students whose circumstances have not provided the advantages that other students have enjoyed. Many have come from weaker secondary schools and a range of challenging circumstances. All have exceled to meet the high standards of Georgetown. Through the Community Scholars Program (CSP) and the Georgetown Scholarship Program (GSP), among others, we have demonstrated the ability to create and sustain strong academic and social support systems to assure the academic and formative success of such students. It’s one of the best things we do here.

But there has long been a very particular challenge we (and in many ways the whole nation) have not yet met. We’ve all read about the need for building the nation’s talent in sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematical sciences. The need is especially critical among traditionally underrepresented groups. The dearth of strong science teachers and lack of science infrastructure in many high schools have led to smaller numbers of students choosing the sciences in college. This is then compounded by the steep challenge of STEM education in college. The lower numbers of such groups entering those fields leads to a lack of role models for the next generation, a vicious cycle that must be broken. Georgetown can help break this cycle.

Through the wonderful generosity of Joe Zimmel (C’75) and Alison Lohrfink Blood (B’81), we will establish the Regents Science Scholars Program. The program will expand the number of science students who are part of Community Scholars upon entering Georgetown. Then after completing an intensive summer residency and their first academic year in good standing they will be invited to become “Regents Science Scholars.” In their second summer, they will be offered specially designed online programming that reinforces core science principles and sustains a sense of community. Following the lessons of GSP, the program establishes peer and faculty mentoring communities to help students excel in Georgetown’s rigorous curriculum in these fields. To underscore the honor of participating in the Regents Scholars Program, the students each will receive a $500 fellowship.

Thus, the program will really start before students begin their first year, with science classroom and research experiences offered in the summer. In that sense, the program takes advantage of the wider effort to integrate research experiences with learning. Over the second summer the students will have access to online experiences that reinforce the learning of their first year. In that sense, the program uses new technology in novel ways to help reinforce the mentoring learning experiences on the Hilltop. They return in the fall to the continued support of peer and faculty mentoring. Through that, the students enjoy a network of supporters that can sustain them through graduation.

The program is an example of a truly integrative initiative: it connects the best of our established support systems and expands this network with innovative academic approaches that take advantage of new learning environments. The program is also an example of the medical center and main campus collaboration, as faculty and students in Nursing and Health Studies will join with main campus science departments in sustaining the program. Meeting the challenge of first-gen students in the sciences requires the efforts of many players across many boundaries.

Professor Heidi Elmendorf, a biologist and Director of Science Education Outreach, will lead the program. Professor Elmendorf has devoted much energy to improving the learning experiences in the sciences at Georgetown. This will continue her success in this realm.

It is sometimes said that Georgetown is a family of alumni, faculty, staff, and students. The new Regents Science Scholars program is a wonderful coming-together of the family to help form the scientists of the next generation. We owe our deepest gratitude to Joe Zimmel and Alison Lohrfink Blood.

A Visit to the Hilltop

Posted on

I had a great time last weekend at the closing dinner of Hoya Saxa weekend, an event offered to admitted first year students of color. The multiday activity is organized by the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, as one of the efforts to recruit talented students to Georgetown.

Coming into the final dinner allowed me to observe how the seventy or so prospective Hoyas had already built bonds among themselves. They had shared the experience of bunking in dormitory rooms (often in sleeping bags), of getting a taste of Georgetown classes, of visiting some of the attractions of the nation’s capital, and of going to a variety of social events.

At each table there was a current student and a faculty/staff member. I sat at a table of six of the admittees. At our table, we talked about what they were interested in studying (a wide diversity from pre-med to philosophy), how they reacted to Washington (the West Coasters feeling a faster pace, maybe a hint of less friendliness), and how they were thinking through their decision before the May 1 deadline (some anxiety, some quiet thought, others proudly and happily noting they had committed to Georgetown).

I learned that the logistical challenges of getting scores of high school seniors from their hometown to Georgetown were daunting. Some of the students were rookie travelers; many at my table had never been to DC. Each of the students was housed at Georgetown, through the generosity of current students sharing their dormitory rooms. Recruiting the student hosts was its own task. There were group activities and buses to be coordinated; there were meals and social events to be planned. It was clear that the CMEA organizers had bonded with the group; they were the rock stars in the room.

I was proud to be part of a university with such giving staff. To my mind, they communicated perfectly the distinctive character of Georgetown.

There was a delicate balance required in communicating the attractive features of Georgetown without creating a “hard sell” that might fail to acknowledge the unique needs of each student. I was happy to hear several speakers, in different ways, communicate that, while they wanted the admittees to come to Georgetown, they also knew that it has to “feel” right to the person. Did it seem like the place where they could grow into the person they were capable of being? Did they feel comfortable or did they imagine they could become comfortable?

After an energetic game of Georgetown trivia, I left the dinner not really knowing how many of my table mates would eventually decide to come to Georgetown. But I got a glimpse of how valuable the weekend might be for the students. Seeing your potential classmates, who share some of your own traits, offers a great way to “try on” the university to see if it fits you. It would be interesting to talk to them after May 1, to get a sense of how they weighed their options and what role Hoya Saxa weekend played in their decision.

Refugees, Migrants, and Us

Posted on

A recent gathering of alumni at the John Carroll weekend was the locus of several sessions led by Georgetown faculty and other experts concerning events in the world today.

One of the most meaningful to me was a briefing on the migration of millions of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East to Europe, seeking a better life.

The panel consisted of experts from a variety of institutions attempting to serve the needs of the displaced people and to discern and address the underlying causes of their movement from their homes.

The session began with a video portraying the treacherous passage across the Mediterranean to Europe, the meeting of their boats by officials, medical examinations given to them, the administrative processing of refugees, and their entry into camps for temporary (or longer) stays. The images of children with fear on their faces were the most poignant.

Ironically, the session was occurring at the same time as Pope Francis was visiting the island of Lesbos, to meet with refugees and listen to their stories.

The discussion at the session focused on public reaction to the refugees stimulated by the Paris and Brussels events. The linkage in the minds of many between the immigration and the destruction and deaths that occurred has led to widespread fear of the immigrants. No one knows, we hear in the media, how many of the refugees might want to harm those in Europe. Given the ignorance, all are feared.

There was some discussion of the camps in the Middle East where now children are being born to adults who themselves were born in the camps. The camps are clearly not temporary phenomena. For those small countries, the additional refugees from Syria posed more fundamental problems.

The dominant belief among the panelists was that the numbers of immigrants did not themselves pose a “crisis” for Europe. Some panelists asserted that the events did, however, require of leaders active management and coordination of services. This, in their opinion, was currently inadequate.

At the end of the panel presentations, the first question from the audience, from a European alumna, was “What can I do as an individual, to help?”

The first answer was to do everything possible to meet the people enduring the refugee experience. Turn the phenomenon away from an abstraction of masses of unknowns seeking entry into one’s country, to real people facing intolerable situations in their homes and fleeing for safety and welfare. Know them as people, learn their stories. Through that, the panelist was arguing, the natural tendency of welcoming can emerge as a balance to uncertainty and fear about terrorism.

After that, several other European alumni noted that they themselves were meeting with refugees, to help in any way their station in life permitted. It had allowed them to see the refugees as individuals, each with their own dignity.

It was notable, I thought, that as the panel was meeting, Pope Francis was preparing to bring into his protection and care a set of refugees on Lesbos.

It started me wondering about what I could do, what we could do, at Georgetown to be helpful to the world at this moment of massive displacement of people.

Four Years, Eight Semesters

Posted on

Most undergraduates at Georgetown complete their baccalaureate experience in four years, completing two semesters of courses each year.

An interesting change seems to be occurring at Georgetown over the years. The percentage of seniors who are taking a reduced load in their eighth and last semester is increasing, from roughly 15% five years ago to almost 30% now.

One of the schools asks students to specify why they are reducing their course load in the last semester. The most popular answers are that they want to have more time for an internship in the spring of senior year, they look forward to a reduced tuition burden, they want to concentrate on their senior thesis, and that they want to enjoy nonacademic, extracurricular activities.

Analysis shows other attributes related to a reduced load – students with more “advanced credits” (i.e., transferred credits from AP exam performance or International Baccalaureate experience) tend to take reduced load, students who are not on financial aid tend to take a reduced load, and students with higher GPA’s tend to take a reduced load.

However, it seems likely that the four-year baccalaureate curriculum was not planned to incorporate a reduced load for the senior year spring term.

One wonders whether Gerogetown might serve its undergraduates more effectively if a “reimagined eighth term” were designed more purposively. In addition to finishing requirements, could the eighth semester be a set of experiences that synthesize all the activities of the prior four years, to provide some thoughtful guidance about their implications for life direction? Are there a set of courses that could be mounted to bridge the gap between the exciting intellectual exchanges that are routine on a university campus and the day-to-day work life of most graduates? Could there be a more formal treatment of the leadership and group interaction experiences common to extracurricular activities? Could there be more opportunities for reflection and synthesis to help students make sense of the totality of their four years? Could there be a set of multidisciplinary, team-taught courses, rich in experiential learning that focus on key issues facing society, with a more practical bend? Would the eighth term be a good locus for a set of bridge courses to work life – skills needed for being part of a work organization like reading and developing budgets, web-based coding and analytics, working with diverse groups, preparation for graduate and professional school examinations, design-based thinking techniques, proposal writing, etc.? Could it be a context for connecting graduating seniors and young alumni, making that boundary more porous?

Indeed, could the “design” of the eighth term be a formal part of each student’s planning responsibility? Could it be a challenge to them to personalize their learning experience, to fit the eighth term to their past academic and work experiences, and to propel them forward as a more fully-formed adult?

If we conceptualize the eighth and final term as not just “finishing up” but the bridging step of a graduate (looking back and looking forward), how could we enrich it?

Academic Rituals and Community

Posted on

Universities, especially those founded long ago, have rituals. These events, repeated each year, often signify passages of one sort or another. They are sometimes highly orchestrated, with each action prescribed in a fixed order.

Some such events are designed to highlight individual accomplishments (e.g., commencements for graduates, teaching and research awards for faculty). Others are well-established invited lectures, for which luminaries convey messages to the university faculty, students, and staff.

Georgetown just experienced such an annual event – the Spring Convocation. At this event, those faculty and staff with 20 years or more of experience at Georgetown are honored with Vicennial Medals. New inductees into the 1789 Society, honoring our most generous benefactors, are presented. In addition, a major address reflecting on a life of learning is given.

This was a particularly wonderful event this year. I appreciated the opportunity to stop the deluge of day-to-day transactions that are part of modern life, to detach from the ever-present electronically communicated demands, and to take a few moments to remember why we do what we do.

For the vicennial medalists, a video is presented. The medalists tell their story of what Georgetown has meant to them. These comments often mention the strength of bonds with colleagues, the appreciation toward mentors throughout their career, and the mission that motivates them. They comment on how much students have taught them over the years, how much pleasure they derive from the intellectual and spiritual growth they observe in students over time.

The 1789 society is a diverse group of individuals. Some have given back to Georgetown in appreciation of what they gained from the University as students. Others represent organizations or nation-state agencies that seek to help the University achieve its goals. Their generosity makes many important activities of the institution possible.

This year’s reflection by Professor Tom Beauchamp was a tour de force highlighting the value of multi-disciplinary collaboration in revolutionizing the ethical treatment of human subjects of research.

The juxtaposition of these two groups – faculty of long standing and benefactors of the institution – reminds one of the importance of sustaining a vibrant community for a university. Administrators come and go; students come and go; the faculty are the heart of a university. Those faculty who devote large portions of their career to one university are key to defining the culture of the institution. They pass on from cohort to cohort the meaning of the mission of the organization. They define norms of social interaction and collegiality.

The benefactors of a private university are its lifeblood. They supply the means by which faculty can enjoy an environment that supports their work. The combination of benefactors and faculty permits excellent teaching, deep scholarly work, and service to the social common good.

This ritualized event has meaning. Such gatherings of the “tribe” remind us all of the power of collectivity. They display the strength of the intellectual diversity of a university. They prompt attention to our dependence on the generosity of others. They force us to reflect on the value of time in the building of community, the very foundation of the work of Georgetown.

Privacy, Information, Policy

Posted on

One of the central issues of the coming years is whether the vast amounts of data being collected on human behavior will be used for good or evil.

Common good uses of social media, web-scraping, and consumer transaction data must address the issue of how to prevent the uses of said data from leading to abuses. How can people have rest assured that data retrieved about them will not be used to harm them?

It’s common to observe that digital technologies are morphing at speeds faster than any regulation governing them can match. Laws protecting personal data seem naïve when reviewed in the context of what we know about technological capacities. Those who wrote the HIPAA regulation were well-intentioned in setting up rules to prevent reidentification of personal medical data by stripping off identifiers from the records. However, it’s fairly easy to demonstrate that removal of those data fail to assure that outcome. Research into reidentification has researchers assuming the role of an “intruder” to identify a person in a data set that is omitting obvious personal identifiers. The typical finding undermines any belief in the possibility of achieving “anonmyzied” data.

This area seems to be ripe for interdisciplinary work. There are multiple, albeit loosely connected efforts going on in different fields.

Computer scientists have been developing the idea of “differential privacy” as an antidote to undesired disclosure of the identity of someone in a record base when statistical analyses are mounted. The approach increases statistical uncertainty of information extracted from the data. The most beneficial advantage is that once certain parameters are set, the holder of a data set can know the level of risk incurred by revealing attributes of individual records. It formally acknowledges that repeated queries from the same data increases the risk of identification. But from computer science alone, there is no guidance on what level of risk is appropriate to incur.

Other computer scientists are creating working production systems where multiple data sets are combined for purposes of joint analysis but no linked product can ever be extracted. This is especially attractive when two data holders have no rights to access each other’s data, but share a desire for statistical products from a combination of the two data sets.

Statisticians have taken a different approach. Instead of altering the analysis outcome to protect privacy, they have used models to create “synthetic” data. The synthetic data sets are created to mimic the statistical properties of the real data set. That is, the averages of all variables in the real data are replicated in the synthetic data. Relationships among two variables are maintained, and so on. The synthetic data, although derived from real data describing real people, contains no data from those individuals. To improve the efficiency of analysis and to measure greater uncertainty due to its synthetic nature, often many synthetic data sets are created from the same real data set. However, this technique faces issues of how similar a synthetic data record can be to a real data record before the method has indeed revealed an individual.

Legal scholars and practicing lawyers are inventing regulatory frameworks that protect the privacy of individuals whose records lie in data sets, but also permits the extraction of information from analysis of the records.

Finally, some philosophers are taking on the issue of articulating principles of data ethics. How should individuals whose records are held by them think through risks of disclosure and benefits of having access to data? How should researchers who wish to behave ethically approach issues of privacy of data they hold? Who possesses the right to control what analyses are conducted on data? What promises of privacy can be kept and which cannot be kept?

It seems that creating a group of computer scientists, statisticians, legal scholars, and philosophers – all thinking about the same issues, but each from a different perspective – might be a great vision, in order to make progress on the issues of privacy, information, and policy formation.

Working Alone; Working Together

Posted on

One of the interesting attributes of scholarly life that I’ve observed over time is the variety of ways disciplines conduct their scholarship.

Some scholars in the humanities work totally by themselves, creating new forms of literary products. Others toil alone in archives, gathering the information that allows them new descriptions and interpretations of past events. Those in the visual arts create objects often in solitary work. Others engage in deep reading of ancient texts, attempting to discern meaning and understand connections among different works. Scientists who focus on theory development often work at their desk, by themselves, discovering mechanisms that affect observable phenomena through analytic work.

At the same time, other fields work in teams of researchers, with each researcher assigned a role to design a project, conduct the inquiry, analyze the results, and disseminate the findings. Teams can be large (a 2015 article in experimental physics has over 5,000 authors); teams can be small. The teams often entail collaboration across disciplines. The focus of the team is often a problem that requires knowledge of multiple disciplines. Sometimes the problem is “solved” by creating an object or process; this is commonly the case in engineering. Sometimes the problem cannot really be “solved,” but the group work is focused on discovering ever more deeper insights into the issue.

Some of the “teaminess” of scholarship is dictated by the nature of observation or inquiry within the field. It’s difficult to be a solitary observational astronomer because of the need to collaborate on the use of very, very large facilities used to gather data on the nonearth entities. Large accelerators like CERN cannot be operated by a single investigator. Large scale social and economic surveys need teams of experts in statistical design, measurement, fieldwork logistics, analysis, and modeling. Drug discovery requires both basic lab work, but also the design of clinical trials, and clinician evaluation.

Those happiest in fields that require solitary scholarship seem to thrive in those times of quiet, individual work. Those happiest in fields that require teams seem to like the interchange of unlike minds.

A related attribute of team-oriented fields is that external funding is often needed to support the different people involved. Grants and contracts often involve competitive and peer-review processes. This implies that not all good ideas are pursued, but bad ideas (in the opinion of peers in the same field) are almost never pursued. These grants or contracts also often enforce a discipline of deadlines and schedules, which moves along the work. Unfunded solitary work is driven by the time and discipline of the individual scholars. They choose the project to pursue without censoring devices of peer review at the moment of inception of a project. Peer review comes heavily at the output stage of the scholarship.

For universities that want to integrate education and research, these different styles pose different challenges. Can research teams integrate students into their groups and offer valuable experiences? How can students best learn how to be a scholar in a field where scholarship is a solitary act?

Another interesting problem for academic campuses is how to evaluate the product of solitary scholars as well as team scholars. It is commonly the case that scholars working in teams produce more research products per unit of time. However, evaluating the contribution of each researcher in the team is more difficult than is true of solitary scholars. Generally, evaluations seek to find examples of leadership of the faculty member on some projects and non-leader contributions to others. Clever network analyses of faculty who are “magnets” for collaborations often identify some who offer a perspective of ubiquitous value to many fields (these are often technical). In a real sense, such team members make their colleagues better by their contribution of skills and techniques to help multiple disciplines. They need to be valued for this contribution, in my opinion.

For a university, the point of these observations is that different styles of scholarship contribute to the diversity of thought on university campuses. They should be honored and supported. Our evaluative processes need to be sensitive to these differences in order to preserve this diversity.

Office of the ProvostBox 571014 650 ICC37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057Phone: (202) 687.6400Fax: (202) 687.5103provost@georgetown.edu

Connect with us via: