The Meaning of the Authentic

October 21st, 2011

When the student organizers of the Second-Year Council Dinner Series extended their gracious invitation to me to speak, I asked about the topic. I was surprised that they wanted to hear about me. Suddenly I had a chance at Andy Warhol’s dream of fifteen minutes of fame. After a moment of more serious reflection, I realized that the request was a fair one: as their teacher and dean, I ought to be an open book for them to read, one in which they might see a future that means something to them. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to the Shores of Tripoli: The Lessons of 9/11

September 15th, 2011

The magic of youth can transform a nightmare into a memory. Over the past weekend, the students and the University commemorated the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a dizzying array of events—speeches, conferences, exhibits, interfaith dialogues, flag runs, and candlelight vigils. Ubiquitous on the Grounds were students wearing yellow ribbons: we remember 9/11. Read the rest of this entry »

The Quest for the Golden Fleece

February 14th, 2011

Last week I made a visit to Semester at Sea, a shipboard program which the University of Virginia sponsors. It is essentially a floating university that circumnavigates the globe, offering an experience akin to a string of study abroad programs. Nineteen students and four faculty from the University of Virginia are participating this semester, on a voyage that so far has taken them to the Bahamas, Dominica, the Brazilian Amazon, and Ghana; as I write, the ship should be hewing close to the west coast of Africa on its way down to Cape Town. Read the rest of this entry »

The “Scientific Conspiracy of Nations”: Virginia in Berlin

December 20th, 2010

Fifty years after David Bruce (College ’20), one of the most distinguished diplomats of the 20th century, occupied the residence of the American embassy in Germany, another Virginian followed in his footsteps. Tammy Snyder Murphy (College ’87) is married to the current U.S. Ambassador, Philip Murphy. To celebrate the College’s budding relationship with Humboldt University, Ambassador and Mrs. Murphy hosted a dinner last month, bringing to their residence not just the delegations from Virginia and Humboldt but representatives of Germany’s great foundations—the Max Planck Institute, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Leibniz Society, and the Alexander Humboldt Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

A Passage to China

March 29th, 2010

Humen—Mouth of the Tiger—is where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. This is also where the Confucian commissioner of the Qing court, Lin Zexu, tried to turn back the barbarians—the private merchants importing opium from Britain—by dumping two and a half million pounds of opium into the sea. This story never ceases to animate the Chinese; the driver of the mini-van carrying our small delegation of three from the College, pointed to the sea and shouted, “aa-pin!,” Chinese for opium.

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More Like Us

February 14th, 2010

Like so many, both inside and outside the academy, I tend to mark the passage of time by the books I read. For me, the 1980s opened with a book by Ezra Vogel, entitled “Japan as Number One,” which foreshadowed all the worries about our loss of industrial supremacy that would come to haunt that troubled decade. In the book Japan seemed superior to America in every way: its government and corporations were as efficient as they were efficacious, increasing productivity while preserving social welfare; its politicians reigned over a stable polity as its bureaucrats wisely figured out everything from controlling crime to alleviating the energy shortage and reducing pollution. Meanwhile, its citizens were highly educated, amid all the uproar about why Johnny can’t read—and Fumiko can.

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Virginia in Peking

November 3rd, 2009

Last week the College opened an office on the campus of Peking University.  It is located on the fifth floor of a state-of-the art building, overlooking a stately courtyard, surrounded by stunningly beautiful modern academic buildings that keep springing up, as the Chinese are wont to say, like bamboo shoots after the spring rain. We expect to put this office at Peking University to good use to facilitate research collaboration and faculty and student exchanges between the two universities.

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The Price of Inspiration

August 4th, 2009

Last week I received a letter from an anguished parent, distressed about the study-abroad fees levied on U.Va. students attending non-U.Va. programs. (There are fewer fees for students participating U.Va.-sponsored programs abroad.) To study in Freiburg, Germany this spring, his daughter had to pay two administrative fees that added up to $550 plus an application fee of $90; to study art in Italy this summer, she was asked to pay yet another $400 in administrative fees, plus another application fee of $90. The total came to $1,130—not a trivial sum, especially coming on the heels of other hidden costs associated with transplanting a child to Europe.

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