FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“Be the change you wish to see,” Gandhi
purportedly said. As I write, it is the last
month of 2015, quite remarkably a year of
change on many fronts.
At the end of the warmest year in recorded
history, the world’s leaders met to confront
climate change. In the last issue of the Forum,
Dr. Daniel Sandweiss wrote about the effects
of El Niño, predicted to have its greatest
impact in fifty years in 2016.
Politically, we see not only a changing
demographic but a changing process. Our increasingly diverse
population challenges earlier assumptions about the party allegiances
of various groups. Candidates in crowded fields now use social media
to arouse support from competing interests.
What was a relatively consistent aspect of American culture, its
religious demographic, saw marked change in the growth of a new
category of individuals who claimed no affiliation with any religious
tradition, the nones. The number of Americans unaffiliated with any
religion rose as established traditions saw numbers decline.
Students who demand university administrators listen in ways
they haven’t before are bringing change to higher education,
raising its consciousness on matters of race, gender, and sexual
assault on campuses.
Global changes are reported in headlines about the movement of
people fleeing war zones, nascent democracies replacing longstanding
autocracies, and new alliances emerging as old hatreds return and
terrorist incidents rise.
Change is at the core of historians’ work. Continuity and change are
the warp and woof of our narratives, but change is what we track, both
in the short term and over what French historians call the longue durée,
history over time. And yet, despite its persistent presence, change is
one of the most resisted ideas in history.
Why the resistance? Largely because people tend to be afraid of
change, some more so than others. Change challenges our comfort
zones, disorients, and destabilizes us — makes us anxious. How often
have you heard someone say, “I don’t like change.”? There’s even a term
for that fear: metathesiophobia.
And yet, we experience change on a regular, if not daily, basis. “Life’s
full of loss,” sang Linda Ronstadt — who doesn’t fear losing loved ones,
a job, a home, security? We may cognitively recognize the inevitability
of change, but we respond to it differently, as the now familiar stages of
grief remind us — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Understandably, some people object to the notion of change for the
sake of change. The wise leader will make changes incrementally after
assessing her new situation, offering assurance that change will come
without hitting people upside the head with it.
At the same time, leaders are often hired to be change agents.
Perhaps you’ve served on a search committee, whether for university
administrators, clergy, employees, or board members. As part of that
process, you wrote a profile for your ideal candidate, identifying not
only the challenges of the position but the changes you wished that
individual to introduce.
Hmm. Look what we’ve done here — we’ve admitted the paradox of
change. It’s something we can’t avoid but needn’t fear because it is an
integral part of life.
Phi Kappa Phi has remained remarkably consistent over the course
of its 119-year history. And yet that history is a record of change —
new chapters, new leaders, new initiatives, new editors, a new look
to the magazine. But always with the same mission to recognize and
promote excellence. Change is at the heart of our recently announced
Excellence in Innovation Award, by which the Society will soon
recognize one institution of higher learning for its best practice in
developing innovative solutions to achieve substantive change.
We hope you enjoy the changes in the pages that follow. Be the
change you want to see.
BE THE CHANGE
BY DR. MAR Y TODD