Author: Leah Glowacki
Last Wednesday, Aug. 27, Occidental College President Robert Skotheim launched the 2008-2009 school year with a convocation address focused on the importance of change. During his speech about the Occidental experience, he said, “If you are not changed by it, you are being shortchanged.” He described the paths that several recent graduates explored during their time at Oxy.
In addition to describing the transformative effect that a liberal arts education can have on an individual, President Skotheim’s address also centered on generational development since the early 1900’s. According to generational theorists, millennial students, born in the 1980’s and 1990’s, will solve problems through organization, teamwork, and community involvement. They are hard-working, optimistic and feel pressured to achieve. President Skotheim said that the challenge of Occidental millennials as a “maturing generation will be to practice these virtues.”
Skotheim said that an interest in generational theory inspired his address. “I am fascinated that clumps of people interpret events which happen during their life due to their generational identity differently.” This is significant at Occidental where students and faculty are of different generations. President Skotheim asked, “what will the nature of the relationship between Occidental students and faculty be?” Skotheim added that surely there is a generational difference between students and faculty, as they were raised by entirely different societies and perhaps the varied beliefs and viewpoints adopted during these unique times will combine to generate new perspectives.
Beyond the effects that generational differences will have on student-faculty relations, President Skotheim also wonders how Occidental will evolve in the coming years as faculty members of younger generations begin to replace senior professors looking towards retirement.
Relating to this generation gap, President Skotheim has noticed minor changes in the world of higher education after a 20 year absence. He indicated that though educational institutions change slowly, technological advancements have increased the pace of learning tremendously.
Although President Skotheim plans to leave Occidental College in June, he hopes to leave it in a better state than he found it. According to President Skotheim, Occidental’s current goal is to restore tranquility to the campus and to find a president that will stay at Occidental for many years to come. On Sept. 11, the search committee will hold its first meeting. Over the course of the school year it will locate the next college president who will take office on July 1, 2009.
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