Every day, up-and-coming young faculty members at
America's leading universities trudge into their offices, planning
to work within their particular field of study. They are entrusted
to educate the next generation of American teachers, yet they are
not encouraged to look across academic disciplines or to engage
with other actors shaping the future of the American education system.
Richard Light and Thomas Healey are looking to change
all of that.
In close collaboration with CBG Senior Fellow and
Lecturer Healey, Light, the Walter H. Gale Professor of Education
at Harvard, has spent more than a year developing a new program
at CBG. The Young Faculty
Leaders Forum - which had what many participants described as
a "grand slam home run" first session several weeks ago
- engages 34 rising young faculty "superstars" to strengthen
American education in innovative ways. The Forum encapsulates the
principal, driving mission of CBG: to harness the strengths of business,
government, and academia for the betterment of society.
The background of the Young Faculty Leaders Forum
comes from observations over the 30 years that Light has served
on the faculty both at the Kennedy School and Harvard's Graduate
School of Education. In his years of interaction with fellow faculty
members, students, and education leaders in all sectors, Light has
increasingly observed that cross-sector collaboration can yield
impressive results and offer promising solutions - perhaps even
drastic reforms - to one of our most sacred institutions: the education
system. When Light shared this observation with Thomas Healey, the
two quickly formed a close connection. And after more than 30 planning
sessions they outlined a program, raised funding from venture philanthropists,
and began their Executive Sessions this fall.
To that end, Forum began the job of bringing together
34 of the nations' most outstanding young faculty members, from
16 top universities, in late September for the first of a series
of symposia that will continue over at least three years. The goal,
which took clear shape at the group's first session, stresses a
strong interaction between the faculty participants and leaders
on education reform and policy from government, business, Harvard
Light commented after the first session, "young
faculty rarely are exposed to ideas, or leaders, from business and
government. These ideas are seldom, if ever, part of most young
educators' training in graduate school. This intensive exposure
should lead to new ideas, and for an opportunity that encourages
each young faculty star to broaden his or her work."
The inaugural session produced an enthusiastic response
from Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who welcomed the young
faculty and kicked off the program. In his remarks, he said he views
this project as one of the most exciting initiatives that Harvard
can undertake. Instead of his promised "few minutes,"
Summers stayed for more than an hour, engaging in vigorous, no-holds-barred,
give and take around the table. As one participant from Stanford
commented later, "I was blown away by the number of specific
ideas that Larry has about how both business and government can
and should help, and ultimately reform, American public education.
He gave me six new research projects to think about, and to share
with my best students who will be leaders in the future. I think
I am ready to get started working on the first one."
anticipates that future sessions will open channels for new debate
on innovations in education: How can private sector funding of scholarships
and even failing schools be utilized effectively? How will the increasingly
visible role of profit-making corporations develop in place of,
or in tandem with, public schools? How will government demands for
accountability take shape and what will the consequences be? How
will the new federal legislation called "No Child Left Behind,"
led jointly by President George Bush and Senator Edward Kennedy
of Massachusetts, affect the quality of public education? How can
institutions of higher learning, and especially America's great
universities, best train the nation's next generation of leaders
in contemporary issues related to education?
Light and Healey have received invaluable guidance and leadership
in developing this project from a recent member of the Kennedy School
community in particular. Lamar Alexander, the Goodman Family Visiting
Professor at KSG and the former U.S. Secretary of Education (who
is currently running to serve as U.S. Senator from Tennessee), has
been instrumental in making the program reach fruition and will
continue to play valuable roles as the program gains speed and traction.
"One of the greatest pleasures in this entire planning process
has been working with Tom and Lamar," said Light. "Each
brings a sophisticated, subtle, and deep understanding of the intersection
between business, government, and education." He further added,
"Tom and I seem to play off one another in a wonderful and
natural way, and our colleagueship is something I treasure. It was
invaluable in shaping and co-chairing our first session of young
The participants heard from three guest presenters:
IBM Professor Roger Porter illuminated his efforts to foster bipartisan
dialogue in the long process of education reform in America; CBG
Fellow Steven Wilson drew upon his rich background of successfully
starting, building, and then selling two businesses to describe
the great challenges he faced translating those business principles
into running charter schools; and Karen Arenson, a senior reporter
and Education Editor of The New York Times, discussed with participants
the balance between sustaining and engaging readers and overwhelming
education stories with too much (though sometimes essential) evidence
At the conclusion of the first session, each participant
was asked to fill out a detailed evaluation form, sharing perceptions
of what worked best and any concrete suggestions for future sessions.
The unanimous consensus was that the first session was a grand success,
and the main suggestion from participants was more time in future
sessions to interact with the senior leaders from business and government.
Light and Healey plan to build precisely such opportunities into
future sessions - the next one is scheduled to convene here at CBG
from April 4-5, 2003.