Lessons Learned: Reflections of a University President

Princeton University Press
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Lessons Learned gives unprecedented access to the university president's office, providing a unique set of reflections on the challenges involved in leading both research universities and liberal arts colleges. In this landmark book, William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and coauthor of the acclaimed best-seller The Shape of the River, takes readers behind closed faculty-room doors to discuss how today's colleges and universities serve their age-old missions.

With extraordinary candor, clarity, and good humor, Bowen shares the sometimes-hard lessons he learned about working with trustees, faculty, and campus groups; building an effective administrative team; deciding when to speak out on big issues and when to insist on institutional restraint; managing dissent; cultivating alumni and raising funds; setting academic priorities; fostering inclusiveness; eventually deciding when and how to leave the president's office; and much more. Drawing on more than four decades of experience, Bowen demonstrates how his greatest lessons often arose from the missteps he made along the way, and how, when it comes to university governance, there are important general principles but often no single right answer.

Full of compelling stories, insights, and practical wisdom, Lessons Learned frames the questions that leaders of higher education will continue to confront at a complex moment in history.

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About the author

William G. Bowen is president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Princeton University. His many books include the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions and Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America's Public Universities (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Nov 1, 2010
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9781400837588
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Educators
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Business & Economics / Leadership
Education / Administration / General
Education / Higher
Education / Leadership
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today are its exploding costs and the rapid expansion of online learning. Could the growth in online courses slow the rising cost of college and help solve the crisis of affordability? In this short and incisive book, William G. Bowen, one of the foremost experts on the intersection of education and economics, explains why, despite his earlier skepticism, he now believes technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning. As a former president of Princeton University, an economist, and author of many books on education, including the acclaimed bestseller The Shape of the River, Bowen speaks with unique expertise on the subject.

Surveying the dizzying array of new technology-based teaching and learning initiatives, including the highly publicized emergence of "massive open online courses" (MOOCs), Bowen argues that such technologies could transform traditional higher education--allowing it at last to curb rising costs by increasing productivity, while preserving quality and protecting core values. But the challenges, which are organizational and philosophical as much as technological, are daunting. They include providing hard evidence of whether online education is cost-effective in various settings, rethinking the governance and decision-making structures of higher education, and developing customizable technological platforms. Yet, Bowen remains optimistic that the potential payoff is great.

Based on the 2012 Tanner Lectures on Human Values, delivered at Stanford University, the book includes responses from Stanford president John Hennessy, Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner, Columbia University literature professor Andrew Delbanco, and Coursera cofounder Daphne Koller.

In one of his commencement talks as President of Princeton University, William G. Bowen called upon the assembled graduates to find ways, in their lives, to blend "the powers of the mind and the promptings of the heart."

This collection of his presidential writings--drawn from annual reports, opening exercises addresses, commencement remarks, and other speeches and essays--reflects a blend of analysis and advocacy that speaks both to public policy issues affecting all of American higher education and to the deeper meanings and values of Princeton.

The writings selected for inclusion here represent roughly half of the total archive annotated in Appendix B. They range from brief extracts to complete documents, and they are organized under such topics as the university in society; purposes of education/liberal education; graduate education, scholarship, and research; faculty; diversity, opportunity, and financial aid; the economics of the private research university; and a final chapter titled simply "Reflections."

Throughout his fifteen-year tenure, President Bowen remained a teacher in the introductory economics course at Princeton, and his principal identification was always as a member of the faculty. His writings, as he saw them, were an extension of his teaching: an opportunity to communicate important ideas in ways that would sharpen his own understanding at the same time that they provoked others to think hard about the questions being raised. As such, his writings were a source of insight and illumination for many "students," of various descriptions, who listened, and read, and learned from what he had to say.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

The United States has long been a model for accessible, affordable education, as exemplified by the country's public universities. And yet less than 60 percent of the students entering American universities today are graduating. Why is this happening, and what can be done? Crossing the Finish Line provides the most detailed exploration ever of college completion at America's public universities. This groundbreaking book sheds light on such serious issues as dropout rates linked to race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Probing graduation rates at twenty-one flagship public universities and four statewide systems of public higher education, the authors focus on the progress of students in the entering class of 1999--from entry to graduation, transfer, or withdrawal. They examine the effects of parental education, family income, race and gender, high school grades, test scores, financial aid, and characteristics of universities attended (especially their selectivity). The conclusions are compelling: minority students and students from poor families have markedly lower graduation rates--and take longer to earn degrees--even when other variables are taken into account. Noting the strong performance of transfer students and the effects of financial constraints on student retention, the authors call for improved transfer and financial aid policies, and suggest ways of improving the sorting processes that match students to institutions.

An outstanding combination of evidence and analysis, Crossing the Finish Line should be read by everyone who cares about the nation's higher education system.

American higher education faces some serious problems—but they are not the ones most people think. In this brief and accessible book, two leading experts show that many so-called crises—from the idea that typical students are drowning in debt to the belief that tuition increases are being driven by administrative bloat—are exaggerated or simply false. At the same time, many real problems—from the high dropout rate to inefficient faculty staffing—have received far too little attention. In response, William G. Bowen and Michael S. McPherson provide a frank assessment of the biggest challenges confronting higher education and propose a bold agenda for reengineering essential elements of the system to meet them. The result promises to help shape the debate about higher education for years to come.

Lesson Plan shows that, for all of its accomplishments, higher education today is falling short when it comes to vital national needs. Too many undergraduates are dropping out or taking too long to graduate; minorities and the poor fare worse than their peers, reinforcing inequality; and college is unaffordable for too many. But these problems could be greatly reduced by making significant changes, including targeting federal and state funding more efficiently; allocating less money for "merit aid" and more to match financial need; creating a respected “teaching corps” that would include nontenure faculty; improving basic courses in fields such as math by combining adaptive learning and face-to-face teaching; strengthening leadership; and encouraging more risk taking. It won't be easy for faculty, administrators, trustees, and legislators to make such sweeping changes, but only by doing so will they make it possible for our colleges and universities to meet the nation’s demands tomorrow and into the future.

The President of Williams College faces a firestorm for not allowing the women's lacrosse team to postpone exams to attend the playoffs. The University of Michigan loses $2.8 million on athletics despite averaging 110,000 fans at each home football game. Schools across the country struggle with the tradeoffs involved with recruiting athletes and updating facilities for dozens of varsity sports. Does increasing intensification of college sports support or detract from higher education's core mission?

James Shulman and William Bowen introduce facts into a terrain overrun by emotions and enduring myths. Using the same database that informed The Shape of the River, the authors analyze data on 90,000 students who attended thirty selective colleges and universities in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1990s. Drawing also on historical research and new information on giving and spending, the authors demonstrate how athletics influence the class composition and campus ethos of selective schools, as well as the messages that these institutions send to prospective students, their parents, and society at large.

Shulman and Bowen show that athletic programs raise even more difficult questions of educational policy for small private colleges and highly selective universities than they do for big-time scholarship-granting schools. They discover that today's athletes, more so than their predecessors, enter college less academically well-prepared and with different goals and values than their classmates--differences that lead to different lives. They reveal that gender equity efforts have wrought large, sometimes unanticipated changes. And they show that the alumni appetite for winning teams is not--as schools often assume--insatiable. If a culprit emerges, it is the unquestioned spread of a changed athletic culture through the emulation of highly publicized teams by low-profile sports, of men's programs by women's, and of athletic powerhouses by small colleges.

Shulman and Bowen celebrate the benefits of collegiate sports, while identifying the subtle ways in which athletic intensification can pull even prestigious institutions from their missions. By examining how athletes and other graduates view The Game of Life--and how colleges shape society's view of what its rules should be--Bowen and Shulman go far beyond sports. They tell us about higher education today: the ways in which colleges set policies, reinforce or neglect their core mission, and send signals about what matters.

What percentage of graduate students entering PhD programs in the arts and sciences at leading universities actually complete their studies? How do completion rates vary by field of study, scale of graduate program, and type of financial support provided to students? Has the increasing reliance on Teaching Assistantships affected completion rates and time-to-degree? How successful have national fellowship programs been in encouraging students to finish their studies in reasonably short periods of time? What have been the effects of curricular developments and shifts in the state of the job market? How has the overall "system" of graduate education been affected by the expansion of the 1960s and the subsequent contraction in enrollments and degrees conferred? Is there "excess capacity" in the system at the present time? This major study seeks to answer fundamental questions of this kind. It is based on an exhaustive analysis of an unparalleled data set consisting of the experiences in graduate school of more than 35,000 students who entered programs in English, history, political science, economics, mathematics, and physics at ten leading universities between 1962 and 1986. In addition, new information has been obtained on the graduate student careers of more than 13,000 winners of prestigious national fellowships such as the Woodrow Wilson and the Danforth. It is the combination of these original data sets with other sources of national data that permits fresh insights into the processes and outcomes of graduate education. The authors conclude that opportunities to achieve significant improvements in the organization and functioning of graduate programs exist--especially in the humanities and related social sciences--and the final part of the book contains their policy recommendations. This will be the standard reference on graduate education for years to come, and it should be read and studied by everyone concerned with the future of graduate education in the United States.

Originally published in 1992.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

In one of his commencement talks as President of Princeton University, William G. Bowen called upon the assembled graduates to find ways, in their lives, to blend "the powers of the mind and the promptings of the heart."

This collection of his presidential writings--drawn from annual reports, opening exercises addresses, commencement remarks, and other speeches and essays--reflects a blend of analysis and advocacy that speaks both to public policy issues affecting all of American higher education and to the deeper meanings and values of Princeton.

The writings selected for inclusion here represent roughly half of the total archive annotated in Appendix B. They range from brief extracts to complete documents, and they are organized under such topics as the university in society; purposes of education/liberal education; graduate education, scholarship, and research; faculty; diversity, opportunity, and financial aid; the economics of the private research university; and a final chapter titled simply "Reflections."

Throughout his fifteen-year tenure, President Bowen remained a teacher in the introductory economics course at Princeton, and his principal identification was always as a member of the faculty. His writings, as he saw them, were an extension of his teaching: an opportunity to communicate important ideas in ways that would sharpen his own understanding at the same time that they provoked others to think hard about the questions being raised. As such, his writings were a source of insight and illumination for many "students," of various descriptions, who listened, and read, and learned from what he had to say.

Originally published in 1988.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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