Given the prompt – “What is one thing that you would like to see change in higher ed for the better?” the first thing that came to mind and that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about deals with the concept of community.

Community – I usually think about community as having two related key aspects: (1) seeing ourselves as part of a bigger whole and (2) also being committed and accountable to that whole.  I sometimes fear that we forget these things in higher ed.  I’m sure this differs across institutions, disciplines, and departments, but in general, I feel like there seems to be so much focus on authorship and percentages of PI status for grants that we sometimes forget the benefits of collaboration or the real reason we publish or seek grants in the first place (for promotions and prestige, right!?)  Oh, that’s right… I forgot about those “quest for knowledge” “making a contribution” and “trying to improve something in the world” kind of reasons for publishing and research…

On one level, this criticism seems like just a “can’t we all just get along” kind of thing… and certainly inter-departmental conflict or jockeying among flavors of a discipline for the next tenure-track position seems to be a nice place to hope for some bonds of community to reverse status quo… but my desire for change actually runs a bit deeper than that.  I feel like if each of us could remember that we play integral yet small roles in the bigger whole (in students’ and each others’ lives and education, in advancing knowledge, and in shaping our society) than we would remember ourselves back to those intrinsically motivating and fulfilling parts of why we do what we do.  Sure, my research, my career aspirations, etc. have value… and there might be times where they differ from my institution or my colleagues… but at the end of the day, aren’t we really aiming for some of the same things?  Do we have the courage to remember that amid our next major conflict?  Or in deciding to reach out for more collaborators on that next grant?  Or to take just a bit more time to be gracious in the classroom?

I wonder.  What do you think?