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What Higher Education Leaders Are Reading This Summer


Posted August 09, 2018 by Stephanie Bryant - Executive Vice President and Chief Accreditation Officer - AACSB International

I'm a voracious reader at any time of the year, but the summer months in particular feel like a special time for reading. However, it’s often a challenge for me to find the time to read as much as I’d like. My general goal is an hour a day of reading, which I divide into 40 minutes of higher education and current events in the morning and 20 minutes of leisure at night. Additionally, I’ve taken to listening to podcasts during my commute and also use the free mobile app, Audible, to continue making progress on a book I’m reading on my Kindle. I love the way the audio app and e-reader sync so that, no matter which device I was using last, I always end up at the right place in my book.

Currently, I’m reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. Schulte is a former Washington Post journalist who uses the terminology being “in the overwhelm” to describe her struggle to be the “model employee”—one who works long hours, is constantly available, never takes vacation, and turns out premier work, while also managing to be the perfect wife and mother of two small children. She has studied how women, and increasingly men, juggle these responsibilities successfully. If you are attending AACSB’s Annual Accreditation Conference in Washington, D.C., Schulte will be our plenary speaker on Monday morning, September 24. I can’t wait to meet her and hear her in person.

Another book I read recently that made an indelible impression on me is Deep Work by Cal Newport, a computer science professor at Georgetown University. I highly recommend this book for its practical emphasis on how to work in a focused and undistracted way to achieve your goals, and particularly how to advance your research agenda. I wish I had read this book during my professor days. I couldn’t put the book down.

As the summer is coming to a close, I thought I would check in with other leaders in higher education to find out what they have been reading this summer.

Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence book cover Tom Robinson, president and CEO of AACSB, read Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Joseph E. Aoun. This book was on several lists of those from whom I solicited input. As we ride the wave of technology disruption, the question we must continually ask is how higher education needs to prepare students for the new future. It’s both eye-opening and thoughtful.
Fascism: A Warning book cover Tim Mescon, EVP and chief officer for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at AACSB, just finished Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright. He remarked on what a great historical perspective and fascinating insights on leadership, politics, and global connectedness he gained from reading this book. He also had the exceptional opportunity to hear Secretary Albright speak at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam and said she was remarkable.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Community in Crisis book cover Caryn Beck-Dudley, dean of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and AACSB board chair, says, “I just finished Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. It is an especially good read for business faculty. It not only explains what the Appalachia region of the U.S. is like, but also what it feels like for a culture to be in decline. It is also a great tale about how we can best serve those who end up making it to higher education and have no family role models. I also read Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Buy this one in hardcover because the pictures are spectacular. It is a wonderful look at a true genius.” This book also was mentioned by several leaders as a must-read.
Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education book cover Tanuja Singh, dean and professor of marketing of the Greehey School of Business at St. Mary’s University, is reading Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education by Nathan Grawe, along with Robot-Proof. Says Singh, “I have been closely following the conversations surrounding the future of work for the past several years. These two books have had a profound impact on my thinking and what business schools need to do to remain relevant and responsive. I firmly believe that the future of higher education calls for compressed time frames for decision-making, the ability to combine prudent risk-taking with innovation, and benefiting from disruption while developing and nurturing a diverse workplace. These two books encourage you to think about how you will lead and prepare your school for a radically different world.”
Destiny of the Republic book cover Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University, is reading Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard, a historical reporter. Smart says, “It is the story of the election of James Garfield as U.S. president, his assassination attempt, and the medical treatment that ultimately caused his death. I’ve previously read River of Doubt, about Theodore Roosevelt exploring rivers in South America, and Hero of the Empire, the story of Winston Churchill during the Boer War. All fascinating and thrilling stories, rich with details of real history—I recommend them all.”
Advanced Manufacturing: The New American Innovation Policies book cover John Elliott, dean of the University of Connecticut School of Business, is usually reading several books at one time. Here’s what he’s reading in his words: “Michael Lind wrote Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States. Lind has written elsewhere on America and on Alexander Hamilton. His work reminds us that some of the issues we face today regarding taxes, tariffs, free trade, and the like are long-standing debates in the U.S. and the world. Our republic has experienced waves of technological change. The steam engine, the automobile, interchangeable parts, and electricity were every bit as transformative (and difficult) as digitization and the computer. Our history can be thought of as a battle between agrarian and manufacturing but also between the engineer and the banker.”

"Another recent book in a similar vein is Advanced Manufacturing: The New American Innovation Policies by William Bonvillian and Peter Singer. It focuses especially on the role of technology in the rise of the U.S. It is interesting to realize the immense role that our military spending on research and development has had in sowing the seeds for private enterprise. Interchangeable parts were originally developed to support the manufacture and repair of muskets, for example. And those patterns from the 18th and 19th centuries have driven continued advances to the present.”
The Big Book of Dashboards book cover Dan Stone, Gatton Endowed Chair at the University of Kentucky, recommends The Big Book of Dashboards: Visualizing Your Data Using Real-World Business Scenarios by Steve Wexler, Jeffrey Shaffer, and Andy Cotgreave. “It’s a great introduction to the principles of data visualization and includes lots of great real-business applications,” he says.

So now I’ve added several more books to my own readings list. If you have time to sneak in a book or two before school starts, one of these books might be a great choice. Happy reading!


Stephanie Bryant Follow Stephanie Bryant on Twitter @StephMBryant.

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