State of the AHC

Last Wednesday, January 31, 2007, Dr. Frank Cerra, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, delivered his annual State of the AHC address (streaming video available). Several pieces of his presentation struck a chord with me and demonstrate relationships with the overall goals of this project. I’d like to discuss one of those pieces below.

During his explanation of his vision for research, he listed the following bullet point under the topic of concerns & issues.

  • We need to value and use wisdom of existing faculty/staff

What he said was:

The final concern I heard in this area was find a better way to value and utilize faculty wisdom. There is a repository of wisdom in our faculty… We need the wisdom of those faculty and we don’t really have a good system for tapping it and using it. It’s part of a dialogue that’s on going and I think we need to really learn how to do this. (35:21, streaming video)

I think this is a key approach to better help faculty and their departments understand the importance of their work and its relevance beyond publication. Lecture notes, correspondence, presentations, committee work, all these facets of a faculty member’s life represent the whole of their repository of wisdom. Believing that a life-time career can be easily measured in the publications left behind paints a false portrait of a faculty member’s work. It is linear and flat. It gives the impression that their work began with Point A and finished at Point B.

We all know a professional career is not that simple. It is full of false starts and the abandonment of some research questions to pursue others. It is dynamic and multileveled. It is not a portrait done by a connect-the-dots strategy, but one done in pointillism. What may seem random dots of color up close, in fact, come into focus as you step away from the canvas.

Archives can act as part of the solution for the concerns & issues raised in this vision for research. They can act not only as a source for information, but also as a model for how to organize the repository of wisdom being created at that moment.