College Leaders Discuss Dartmouth’s Future in a Changing World

Dartmouth News

June 19, 2019

By Bill Platt

At the 250th anniversary event, the liberal arts are held up as a guiding principle.

The “Disrupted or Disruptor” discussion group
Participants in the “Disrupted or Disruptor” discussion are, from left, Professor Barbara Will, Dean Matthew Slaughter, Dean Elizabeth Smith, Professor Kathryn Kirkland MED ’86, Provost Joseph Helble, Professor Laura Ray, and Dean F. Jon Kull ’88. (Photo by Herb Swanson)

Dartmouth leaders looked into the future of higher education at a flagship 250th anniversary event Saturday and offered their vision of the liberal arts as the guiding principle that will ensure that Dartmouth thrives in the 21st century.

“In a world that’s getting more complex every day, where the rate of change is faster and faster and new industries are created not in decades but in a couple of years, we need to be ready for this,” Dartmouth Board of Trustees Chair Laurel Richie ’81 told a crowd of nearly 500, including many alumni in town for reunion week, at the event, “Disrupted or Disruptor: Dartmouth in a Changing World,” held in the Hopkins Center for the Arts’ Spaulding Auditorium.

She introduced moderator Barbara Will, the A. and R. Newbury Professor of English and associate dean for the faculty of arts and humanities, and the panelists: Provost Joseph Helble; Kathryn Kirkland, MED ’86, the Dorothy and John J. Byrne Distinguished Professor at Geisel School of Medicine; F. Jon Kull ’88, dean of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies; Laura Ray, then-interim dean of Thayer School of Engineering; Matthew Slaughter, dean of the Tuck School of Business; and Elizabeth Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. After the discussion, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 joined the panelists for closing remarks. ...

Provost Joseph Helble on Fostering Ethical Foundations

Helble said he had been thinking about the disruption brought on by the rapid development of technology. Advances like facial recognition software, the collection of massive amounts of personal data by companies like Amazon and Google—and the fact that children today will be tracked and targeted by algorithms from birth—trouble him.

We have to think about how we are instilling ethical values in students, and the critical thinking that enables them to ask, not if something can be done, but should it be done, Helble said.

“For us, this is a moment of responsibility in teaching our students, from the beginning, that these are thoughtful and deliberate choices they’re making. That has to be part of the rubric of their education,” Helble said.

Dean Laura Ray on Broadening Access to Higher Ed

With the fourth of her four children heading off to college, Ray said she’d been thinking about access and affordability of higher education. “It’s not just about getting students through the door, it’s about getting them to the door,” said Ray, whose appointment as interim dean of Thayer ended Monday, when the term of recently named Thayer Dean Alexis Abramson began.

The College needs to think about how it can ensure that it attracts a diverse student population, because diverse perspectives enrich the education Dartmouth is able to offer and empower a new generation of leaders from a broader segment of the population, she said.

An example of this philosophy in action can be seen in the fact that, in 2016, Dartmouth graduated more women in engineering science than men, said Ray, to a big round of applause.

“A lot of colleagues asked, how did you do this? It is another piece of the liberal arts education, because we bring students in the door at Dartmouth,” Ray said. “But we don’t admit them into engineering. We admit them through the College, and they come, they explore, they learn critical thinking skills, they take a language, they have an opportunity to study abroad. They’re not giving up any of that, which I think is very important to women.”

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