TITLE: Quotes from a Box of Stuff AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: July 17, 2006 3:50 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Today I've been cleaning out an old-fashioned sort of current stuff folder: a box of papers that had gathered on my desk last year and made the move en masse when we moved the department office to its new building. It is truly amazing in this day of digital technology and on-line communication that so much paper still flows among the various units of a large organization. Most of the paper in the box I attacked today has hit either the recycle bin or the shredder; the rest, mostly related to enrollment and budget, has been safely filed away, though I'm not sure how often it will be used. Occasional pages contain highlighted quotes that struck me as worthy of keeping at some point last year. Not all seem as worthy today, but a couple ring as true now -- or truer -- than they did then. One is "Midlife in Academe", an essay by Jeffrey Nesteruk in the July 8, 2005, issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Nesteruk recounts the enlightenment that came over him as he reached middle age, a tenured full prof who has reached most of his external professional goals. But this passage expresses a feeling I have after a year as department head:
... I have to be careful how I handle the loss of my professional innocence. I know the personalities in my academic world. I know the political divides, I know the battles that can be won and those that can't. But there's a risk in knowing too well your world's limits. I don't want that knowledge to constrain my imagination.
Like teaching and writing, administering a department and trying to lead it require imagination. It's important not to get boxed in by the geography you've observed so far. Then again, maybe I should be running for the hills away from this job. From the International Association for Pattern Recognition's IAPR Newsletter, date unknown:
Administration is abhorred by all right-thinking academics and best to be avoided whenever possible. When done badly it causes grief; when done well it attracts even more to be done.
I've already lived both sides of that equation, and I expect the coming year to be more of the same. -----