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Dear Parents and Families,
As we head into the fourth week of the term, I would like to take a moment to share with you a snippet of an open hours conversation I had with a first-year student earlier this week.
The topic was leadership, following comments I made at our welcome ceremony during Orientation. Dartmouth’s mission, “to prepare the most promising students for a lifetime of learning and responsible leadership”, reflects our commitment to developing leadership qualities as a critical element of our liberal arts education. During the ceremony, I had observed that every one of our new students has the capacity to lead – from the center of the room, from the back, or from the front. The student wasn’t sure she felt like a leader-or whether she wanted to be one.
I told the student that leadership isn’t just about starting a revolution, creating a business, or speaking from a stage. It’s about knowing who you are – which means being able to identify and reflect honestly on your values, your beliefs and your ideologies. It’s about listening. It’s about being able to connect with others – no matter how different they may seem-in order to understand who they are, what they value, what they believe and what guides their lives. It’s about being able to have difficult discussions-sometimes across differences that may, on first glance, seem too wide to span. And it’s about taking your knowledge and your expanded perspective to make your world a better place.
It is easy for our students to think of “the world” as something big and vast, something out there and beyond their daily experience. It is also easy for our students to think of leadership the same way. We want to challenge that thinking. We encourage students to see opportunities to lead in every aspect of their lives- in their families, their friendship networks and their neighborhoods. Through learning in and out of the classroom, we want them to cultivate the ability to have a positive influence on a daily basis, in any relationship, any setting and any community of which they are a part.
I learned as much from this '22 as she learned from me. It is a tremendous privilege to teach and work with your students--every one of whom will become a leader in their own right. We look forward to a wonderful academic year.
With best wishes,
Professor of Sociology
South House Professor
Interim Dean of the College