"The importance of embracing tradition," President Jim Yong Kim '82a told members of the Alumni Council at its 202nd session, "lies in restating every year our commitment to each other as a community of Dartmouth. On that firm foundation of relationships to each other, we have the opportunity to be enormously innovative."
The session, held May 19–21 in Hanover, gave councilors opportunities to meet with senior administrators, trustees, and students for discussions about advising, social space, leadership development, and other aspects of Dartmouth life today. Trustee Jeffrey Immelt '78 spoke at a dinner in Alumni Hall. Martha Beattie '76, new vice president of Alumni Relations, addressed the council, thanking members for their work and affirming her commitment to "sustaining the excellence of alumni relations while at the same time seeking new challenges."
Trustee Jeff Immelt '78, CEO of General Electric, said that good leaders are, like President Kim, "good systems thinkers," who think laterally across many fields, rather than in silos.
Innovation and leadership were recurring themes throughout the weekend. In addressing topics councilors suggested before the session, President Kim shared his vision of sustaining Dartmouth as "truly the Big Green" – the global leader in undergraduate teaching; the site of unparalleled interdisciplinary, path-breaking research; an institutional beacon in higher education; the school of choice for the very best faculty and students; and the beneficiary of "an alumni network like no other."
As an example, he cited Dartmouth's new Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, an unprecedented initiative that will use comprehensive evaluation and measurement techniques to identify and implement the most effective ways to confront the problem of binge drinking on campuses.
More than 50 colleges and universities, from Cornell to Wesleyan, have joined the collaborative since it was launched in early May, and the project has attracted wide media attention. The collaborative is the inaugural effort of the National College Health Improvement Project, a joint undertaking of the College and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
Thinking Laterally to Move Forward: Creating Systems Thinkers
Immelt, CEO of General Electric and chair of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in the Obama administration, spoke about his service on the jobs council and the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees, as well as the changing business climate and good leadership.
"There is huge, unbelievable opportunity in business in the next 25 years," Immelt told the councilors, "but also lots of volatility, and we have to prepare our students and companies for that. The students that I hope are developing at Dartmouth are people who can deal with volatility, are technically savvy, and have the aptitude for this changing economy."
Immelt discussed traits of good leadership. "Good leaders are humble listeners with an analytical mind," he said. "I was a math major here, and I have to say, I use that background probably more than anything I learned in business school. The constant probing and analyzing of data, and staying humble enough to ask questions. That's something I think a good liberal arts education develops."
"Good systems thinking" is another quality. "This world is about problem solving and people who know how to think horizontally," said Immelt. "This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Jim Kim almost at first sight. He's a joint MD and PhD in anthropology, so he naturally thinks laterally about every problem."
Creating more ways to develop students into systems thinkers "will make Dartmouth a remarkable college for the 21st century," he said.
Good leadership also requires, Immelt said, "the ability to build networks and teams, which is a big core competency at Dartmouth."
Learning to Fail Fast, and Other Stories from the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network
The discovery that roommates, despite their enthusiasm, may not make the best team members for an entrepreneurial business was one of the learning experiences shared by students in the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network during a dinner discussion with councilors.
Chris Woods '13, Andrea Marron '11Th, Seth Gilmore '11Tu, Joe Gigliotti '14DMS, and Ilya Bendich '14DMS discussed how they've learned to "fail fast and move on," research their markets, undertake the rigors of a business plan, and reach more entrepreneurial milestones under the guidance of Professor Greg Fairbrothers '76, founder of the DEN.
About 25 councilors participated, and many had questions regarding what alumni can do to connect with and help student entrepreneurs. They said more connection is needed among the alumni and students of the College and professional schools. Fairbrothers noted that Dartmouth actually has more channels than many other schools and invited any alumni to contact him. Councilor Jennifer Argenti '99, '05Tu, a member of the Young Alumni Committee, noted that enhancements to Dartmouth's Career Services Office are in the works.
The Heart of the Alumni Council
The DEN discussion was one of five student discussion groups available to the councilors, the others covering high-risk drinking, off-campus programs, diversity, and the Dartmouth Outing Club. Councilors also sat in on classes, toured the construction underway to transform Thayer Dining Hall into the Class of 1953 Commons, and discussed the possibility of making changes to the Reunion experience. Danielle Dyer '81, '89Tu takes over as council president on July 1. The councilors voted Martin Lempres '84 president-elect.
Council president Tom Peisch '70 said the the 202nd session was "extremely productive. As always, the high points included hearing from trustees and President Kim about the current state of the College and plans for its future. In addition, the students who presented on a variety of topics remind us that Dartmouth continues to attract the very best students from around the country and the world.
"But the real joy for me," said Peisch, "was spending time with alumni from classes in the '40's through the '10's, all of whom are devoted to the College and committed to keeping it strong."
Deborah Klenotic is the assistant director of Web communications in Alumni Relations.