The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Dartmouth President Carol L. Folt speaks to Rocky Leadership Fellows

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Carol L. Folt, Presidentof Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences, spoke to us about the lessons she had gained from her commendable career in higher education. President Folt addressed some important questions during the session, including: How do you get leaders to be excited about being part of change? What makes a good leader? What leads to problems in leadership?
  President Folt emphasized the dynamic nature of the higher education industry and the importance that needs to be placed on capturing students’ excitement while developing their skills to serve the world of the 21st century. Folt stated that the present represents an inflection point in the history of the higher education in which the industry is changing to cater to a more diverse world, where the pursuit of knowledge is of an interdisciplinary nature. Leaders in the industry need to be willing to accommodate this change, and adapt as well as make the best of the disruptive technologies being introduced into the sphere of higher education. In addition to it being an exciting time for higher education, Folt also stressed that higher education is in a time of crisis. While tuition is rising, so are costs – creating issues for both students as well as administrators. At this time of crisis and change, the presence of strong leadership is all the more important. President Folt stated that the higher education is different from other businesses as it has to acknowledge both the need for change as well as the forces of tradition. In addition, higher education has ‘shared governance’ where there is no clearly defined leader – there are many stakeholders and each group (administrators, faculty, staff, students) exerts some influence on the decision-making process.

President Folt stressed the importance of establishing common ideals before addressing in issue. Asking your teammates, where we want to be in five years, ten years (and so on) can be very important when addressing issues that face an organization. Overall, it is important to address crisis as well as change with aspiration rather than fear. Secondly, Folt emphasized that rhetoric is of the utmost importance as different words mean different things to different people. Third, leaders have to listen because through listening they can develop what plan of action is best suited for their organization. Lastly, President Folt encouraged us to step outside and critically evaluate our own actions as this can be the best way to improve our work as leaders.

-By Maha Malik '13

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences