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January 02, 2008

Richard Florida

Keeping It Real

« The Orwell Index | Main | Creative Class Alienation »

Surprise, surprise - at least for me that is. My post on academic resolutions is getting some positive response from academic colleagues. Over at his real estate and urban economics blog, George Washington University's Richard Green writes:

My 15 months at Freddie Mac helped me develop insights for both teaching and research that I never would have received in the absence of the experience. And I am currently working on a presidential campaign where I am learning how I must persuade (rather than lecture)a group of smart people who come at issues from a different perspective from my own. And World Bank consulting has been among the most satisfying and edifying thing I have ever done professionally, even though it brings along with it its own frustrations. The point is that professors need to get out of their rooms if they really want to influence the world.


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It's a good resolution. But it might also be worth considering whether some universities seem to do a better job of encouraging their faculty to keep in touch with the non-academic world.

Co-op programs are often described as great experience for students, but I think they're good for faculty too: I remember several profs at the University of Waterloo who were very eager to soak up stories students brought back from work terms. A classroom full of students with recent, real-world experience is probably a powerful incentive to keep current if you want to look credible!


Matt - I agree. But unfortunately most universities do everything they possibly can to discourage their professors to engage in the real world by strongly biasing everything from raises and other financial incentives and promotion to tenure toward academic work.

Zoe B

My college town ASKS academics for civic service on our authorities, boards and commissions. We benefit from advice that we cannot pay for. Some faculty and staff also have won local elections for borough council, township supervisor, school board, and county commissioner. I don't know how much these things help with promotion, tenure, raises, etc., However, the civic contributions do confer status and sometimes genuine power (albeit off-campus). It helps that our town is small enough to notice and appreciate all of these contributions.

We also directly benefit from student internships and class projects. Students do research, design, and other work that (again) we cannot pay for.

Some folks feel this is fair payback for all the tax monies we lose on businesses that are exempt because they happen to operate on campus. I think anything that blurs the borders between town and gown is healthy for both sides.

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