The Colgate Scene
January 2007

A message from President Rebecca S. Chopp
The balance of leadership

Through the residential-academic program LOFT (Leadership Options for Tomorrow) II, 25 sophomores are living together this year and took Carrie Keating's fall psychology course Leadership: How to Change the World. [Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]
The debate team practices during Democracy Week. [Photo by Luke Connolly '09]

Balance is a historical Colgate strength. Generations of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni have led and succeeded through their ability to balance ideas and challenges that are often at different ends of the spectrum.

As an institution today, Colgate is distinguished by a set of finely balanced features. We are big yet small. Our community is both challenging and supportive. Our studies are rigorous and creative. And our model of liberal arts education produces graduates who take intellectual risks in pursuit of truth and knowledge, but do so ethically and with an interest in building community in the process. As I travel and visit with leaders of top graduate programs and businesses, it becomes more and more clear to me how important that is, because balance is an important aspect of leadership. A hallmark of good leaders today is that they possess both intellectual gutsiness and passion for making connections.

In today's increasingly global environment, employers in media, education, finance, the arts, law, and other fields say that success depends on the ability to make connections and think in bold, creative ways. Our graduates will have to build and lead teams of people with diverse views and backgrounds — from Kansas, Georgia (the republic, and the state), India, Freiburg, Shanghai, and Cape Town, and from all the world's religions. In our own nation, leadership means working with those on the far and moderate right, the center, and the slight and far left, to understand different points of view and respect other perspectives.

Leadership today also requires balance between developing a base of knowledge that gives a person the ability to defend ideas, and the confidence to collaborate with those who hold different beliefs but work toward a common good. Those abilities require sophisticated communication skills.

For our students to develop and practice those skills, we need to ensure that our community welcomes what contemporary political philosopher Michael Sandel calls a "clamorous dialogue" — that this is a place where intellectual courage is valued, debate is respected and respectful, and individuals are supported as they balance varying viewpoints, think critically, and make their own decisions. As a campus and as a society, we need to find ways to engage in honest, rigorous debate about our differences and our commonalities. We must do this not just in terms of national politics, religion, race, and values, but also in global terms.

This fall, dialogue on campus was strong. In October, the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization hosted a debate between Ruben Navarrette Jr., columnist for the Washington Post Writer's Group and frequent CNN commentator, and Michelle Malkin, syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor (see Around the college). The topic was immigration policy — a hot-button political issue. The arguments were passionate but the tone was civil. Twenty students from a variety of organizations also had the opportunity for dialogue with Navarrette and Malkin over dinner.

Through programs such as GATE 101 and Leadership Options for Tomorrow (LOFT), we challenge our students to develop the confidence to face tough issues, make tough decisions, and lead by example. Developing 21st-century leadership skills in our students will require hard work and a certain intellectual gutsiness on all our parts.

I hope I offend no one by using the term "gutsiness," but I always think of Colgate as a place where those with passion can engage one another through genuine debate, exploration, and dialogue. We provide the environment of support, challenge, and respect that allows students to go for it — whatever "it" is for each individual. Doing so takes a certain amount of guts.

Colgate was founded by people with the do-something spirit, and that continues to fuel our success today. Our alumni are the beneficiaries of this legacy and see the value in passing it on to today's students. Alan Greene '51, trustee emeritus and chairman of David J. Greene and Co., LLC, saw a need for students to develop their financial investment knowledge and skills and decided to sponsor and speak as a part of a lecture series on campus. Jay Brennan '81 wanted students to understand the importance and impact of philanthropy in society and now supports a program through The Brennan Family Foundation to teach students about nonprofits and philanthropy, and to "do" philanthropy by providing $10,000 per year to be disbursed to central New York nonprofit agencies. Countless other alumni are also helping to maintain that balance of intellectual gutsiness and passionate connectivity at Colgate.

Our strategic plan supports the faculty in their disciplines and in cross-disciplinary institutes to help foster curiosity and passion around the big ideas of the day. Our residential education program supports students as they explore ideas and perspectives both inside and outside of their comfort zones. The purpose of a liberal arts education is to teach one how to stretch intellectually, connect ideas and people, and center one's own values and beliefs. The world needs leaders who possess these ideals, and Colgate has the model of education to develop this critical balance in each and every student.

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