Photo by Kathryn Wlodarczyk
By Rye Druzin/// News Editor
The Pioneer Log: How do you think the students, the faculty and the institution as a whole have influenced you since you arrived?
President Barry Glassner: One way that I’ve been influenced can be seen in my recent commentary for the Chronicle of Higher Education. When I came to Lewis & Clark, I was a bit skeptical about some aspects of food culture—how people are prone to overthink their culinary choices. Through eating with students in the Bon and talking with them about food, I’ve become pleasantly surprised by how healthy their relationship with food actually is. I’m impressed by how thoughtful our students are about their food choices and about the ethical and political dimensions of food.
What also amazes me about our students is their sense of responsibility and empowerment. From our signature symposia to our a cappella scene and environmental initiatives, Lewis & Clark students step up and take charge of things.
My faculty colleagues never cease to inspire me. Their dedication to teaching, which earned us a place in the U.S. News top 15 colleges for undergraduate teaching, is exceptional, as is their path breaking research and artistic creations in a wide range of fields.
PL: What was your upbringing like? What are some fond memories that you have of your home and your youth?
BG: I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and I have fond memories of doing magic shows around the town as a child. My initial inspiration was a magician I saw at a birthday party when I was six, and I started getting books and teaching myself tricks. By the time I was 12, I was doing magic shows all over Roanoke. As a teenager, I was an officer in a national club for young magicians and went to magic conventions.
PL: What drove you to sociology and research and the field of higher education?
BG: I’ve always wanted a life of investigation, research and teaching—a life of the mind. When I was young, I would sometimes watch other children on the playground and try to figure out what they were up to. Later, I became interested in social problems and how they’re perceived—particularly trying to understand why people are needlessly frightened by certain things that are not nearly as threatening as they are made out to be.
I majored in journalism in college but took a range of courses in other disciplines as well. One of my sociology professors suggested that I consider going to graduate school in sociology, and the more I looked into it, the more appealing it was to me.
PL: Were there specific events in your life that, in your mind, served as catalysts to bringing you to where you are today?
BG: My father had a deep love of learning, but as an accountant and businessperson, he never quite understood the life of a professor. That said, his precision, self-discipline, work ethic, and commitment to the people who worked with him inspires me every day. My other main influences were great teachers I had in high school, college and graduate school.
PL: What is your favorite thing to do in Portland (on either a sunny or not-so-sunny day)?
BG: My wife and I are avid walkers and hikers, and can’t help but be moved by Portland’s natural beauty. The Japanese Garden will always be one of my favorite places to get inspired, and I take walks and hikes around the neighborhoods and parks near campus and far beyond.
I’m also a foodie at heart, so I love exploring Portland’s incredible culinary scene. When the weather’s nice, I also enjoy trips to our many farmers’ markets.
PL: As the President of the college, how would you like to see students involved in the growth of this institution? As they are the constituents that the college exists for, do they, in your opinion and practice, deserve a strong voice in decision making processes that are made on this campus pertaining to changes in things like, for example, meal plans, faculty and retention rates?
BG: First let me say generally that I think it’s great that students are very involved here and should be in all kinds of different areas and part of what I think is really encouraging about that is that students are so committed to the institution and to making it better and to working diligently when they are involved in these activities. On every search committee to hire a new faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences, every time there is a recruitment of a professor in any of the departments, there is a student on that committee. That is, in my experience, not common throughout the academic world, so I think it’s great that students get a chance to do this and that the faculty on the committee and the Dean get to hear the students’ views of the candidates and of what kinds of positions [they think] the recruiting should be for.
PL: So you definitely see that students are involved and you see that as a valuable asset?
BG: Oh yeah, that was something that definitely attracted me to Lewis & Clark and it’s a great contribution.
PL: Where would you like to see Lewis & Clark go in the next few years? What are your goals for the student body and the institution as a whole, and how do you view your role in any change to the institution?
BG: When you look at the directions laid out on our current strategic planning process, you’ll have a good sense of where we’re heading. Lewis & Clark is going to be the school of choice for Portland, the Northwest and well beyond. We will continue to engage in curricular innovation, pursue new faculty initiatives and assemble a student body in all three schools that is the envy of other colleges and universities. We will be the school to turn to—regionally, nationally and internationally—when it comes to innovative ideas in higher education.
Part of my job as the president is to get out there and raise visibility and funds, form strategic partnerships, and strengthen relationships with the people and organizations that can help us move us forward.