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Grateful for Colleagues

As if 2020 could not get more shitty, we got the news a couple of weeks ago that Rob Lue had died at 56 from cancer. Rob was a professor, faculty director of the Bok Center, and founding faculty director of HarvardX.

Those of us who were influenced by Rob – and there seems to be many of us – will remember him for his combination of brilliance, energy, and style. He will be greatly missed.

Rob’s death, coming so close to Thanksgiving, is an excellent reminder to say aloud what we are grateful for. Many of us will do this on Thursday at our (now smaller) Thanksgiving tables and over Zoom.

We should also be sure to give thanks to our colleagues. In thinking about Rob this Thanksgiving, I’d like to say how grateful I am to so many of you.

Here I won’t name names, as there are many people across the higher ed ecosystem that I think of as close colleagues and friends. Any list will inadvertently leave someone out. But if you are reading this, you likely know who you are.

What is different about higher ed from perhaps other professions is how tightly we are connected to people who work at different institutions and organizations than where we work. In our higher ed, our closest and most cherished colleagues are as likely to be across the country as down the hall. (Or virtual hall, nowadays.)

Close cross-institutional bonds have been a hallmark of faculty life for many generations of professors. After all, a professor’s first loyalty is to her discipline, not her institution. What is perhaps different is that these cross-institutional/organizational networks of relationships now extend to non-faculty educators, alternative academics, and likely other higher education professionals.

The world of learning innovation – or whatever you call our community – is connected by a shared impatience to move past the higher ed status quo.

The community that Rob was a part of is determined to integrate facets of learning science and educational technologies to drive postsecondary change. This is the work of moving a quality relational-based and liberal arts-centered higher education from a scarce good, available only to the most privileged, to one that is widely accessible.

This Thanksgiving, I want to remember that it is not colleges and universities that educate and create knowledge. It is people. It is you.

Among the things that I’ve missed most during this global pandemic is the loss of seeing colleagues face-to-face. We’ve learned this year that Zoom can maintain our existing relationships, but it is a poor platform to build new ones. Zoom is also no substitute for time spent physically together with the best of your colleagues – those of whom that are both close friends and collaborators.

To my colleagues and friends across higher education, I wish you a safe and sane Thanksgiving.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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Tuesday, November 24, 2020