One of the cool things about serving as editor of The Leader is that I get to spend a lot of time with our wisest colleagues at their peak moments. Typically, I spend about two weeks choosing, line editing, and corresponding with the contributors. Towards the end of the process, I think a lot about those tags and teasers that are meant to lure you in as readers. All told, I spend a fair amount of time reading and thinking about Leader articles in different ways, and I am the better for it. When I’m at my day job, I often find myself quoting from Leader articles. It looks kind of like this: I’ll be at work, in a meeting, discussing some contentious issue, and at the right moment I will say something like, “I just happened to read in a forthcoming article the other day that at the University of X, they were facing the same problem that we’re facing here, and what they did was . . . ” and then I will quote or paraphrase the ACAD Leader piece that I’ve been walking around with for two weeks, and more often than not, the reaction I get will be “Wow, that sounds great. Who wrote that? Can you send me a link?”
On such occasions, people look at me like I’m brilliant when in fact I know within myself that I am merely well read.
That’s what I mean about getting to spend a lot of time with our wisest colleagues at their peak moments. While I’m going about my business here in Texas, I’ve got colleagues all around the country in places like Wisconsin and California and Pennsylvania who are not only having aha moments and subtle but profound insights into the work of academic administration but writing those insights down and sharing them with me (or rather, with us—I just get to be the first one to see them).
For example, in putting together this issue, I picked up a few things about the ethic of care, the courage required for allyship, and J. Herman Blake’s notion of the “deficit view” that has informed the approach to teaching minority students. I immediately put them into conversations with faculty and fellow administrators. When that kind of thing happens, I know that I am bringing something to the proverbial table because had I not been reading the Leader, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to share those perspectives or even to use those words and phrases.
So, reading The Leader is like having a secret weapon . . . that you don’t want to keep secret. I sometimes play with the idea of developing, in parallel with my regular curriculum vita, a “negative space vita”–that is, a list of things that I’ve accomplished that would never see the light of day on a regular vita but that mean a lot to the health and life of an institution—I mean to say things like de-escalating an bitter argument among colleagues, avoiding lawsuits and scandals and in general avoiding the harm that threatens from constrained budgets and institutional politics and other suchlike problems. Thanks to the Leader, I’m a little more skilled at the work I do for a living every day.
Another great thing about working on The Leader is that I get to work with our former editor, Andrew Adams. If you have been enjoying the articles from the archive, be sure to thank him. The concept was his idea, and he is the one who trawls through the backlist to find these gems, and not only that, he is the one who edits and annotates them. It’s a lot of labor and it never fails to inspire me.