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  • Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University
  • Erica Eckert
Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University, by Nannerl O. Keohane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. 284 pp. ISBN 082233786X.

With eloquent prose and seasoned insight, Higher Ground: Ethics and Leadership in the Modern University functions as a philosophical manifesto for higher education in the United States. Nannerl O. Keohane, former president of Duke University and Wellesley College, uses her rich administrative experience and deep background in political theory to write this collection of articles, essays, and speeches. Although the title suggests a book about ethics and leadership, the reader will glean insight on what Keohane believes is important to postsecondary education: emerging issues, points of conflict, governance issues, access, diversity, and the dangers of elitism.

The first part of the book is composed of articles and speeches. In "Collaboration and Leadership: Are They in Conflict?" Keohane explores the "dignified reserve" a leader retains while making efforts to be collaborative. At first glance, collaboration and leadership might appear to be opposed to each other, but in good practice they are mutually reinforcing tools. Keohane also discusses three roles of leaders: problem-solver, change agents ("making things happen"), and "taking a stand." According to Keohane, collaboration is not something one should engage in simply because all other avenues have failed but rather because it is an effective way to lead.

Six of Keohane's articles and speeches are devoted to the role, mission, goals, and purposes of higher education. The pieces take many routes, from historical perspectives to the discussion of Alexis de Toqueville's ideas of American egalitarianism and individualism. In "The American Campus: From Colonial Seminary to Global Multiversity" and "The University in the Twenty-first Century," Keohane looks at the past to predict the future, while discussing the historical purposes and strengths of American higher education. Research, teaching, undergraduate education, postgraduate education, and the human condition are discussed in "The Mission of the Research University," while the roots, purposes, and values of liberal education are explained in "The Liberal Arts and the Role of Elite Higher Education." In "ACE Address: The Atwell Lecture" and "Pro Bono Publico: Institutional Leadership and the Public Good," Keohane discusses the notion of individualism (a trait uniquely American, according to de Toqueville) as a divisive, yet pioneering force, requiring postsecondary education to socialize students (and alumni) to come together as a synergistic group for positive change.

"Moral Education and the Modern University," "More Power to the President?" and "When Should a College President Use the Bully Pulpit?" focus on [End Page 230] types of university action. When discussing the role of the president, opportunities for wielding formal authority in the public sphere, and the role education has in instilling values and reasoning into students, Keohane is clear: contemplation and conscientious decision-making are essential. By providing a definition of civic virtue, exhorting the value of inculcating this virtue into students, and discussing effective and principled leadership, Keohane imparts enduring wisdom to the reader. Themes discussed in the remaining essays include gender equality and progress, social justice (postsecondary education, especially elite institutions, should not merely replicate the social structure), the place of technology, and the importance of the idea of a community of scholars.

Part 2 of the book is comprised of addresses to the Duke community—faculty, students, alumni, and others. Appropriately, Keohane begins with her first convocation address at Duke, as she is learning the campus herself. Sharing some tongue-in-cheek advice, she impresses a sense of adventure on the new class by encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. Although the speech is clearly directed at establishing the expectations and ideals of a Duke education, it emphasizes the chance students will have to go beyond themselves and develop their humanity. In her "Inaugural Address," Keohane elaborates upon the purpose and role of the modern research university and establishes her areas of focus for administration. In "The University of the Future," Keohane discusses globalization, technology, and the changing age of the student as they impact higher education and offers suggestions for how to view and handle these issues.

Grappling with the...


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pp. 230-232
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