Letter to the editor: Life at a student-centered research university


To the editor,

As the university’s chief research officer, it was with great interest that I read your editorial, Life in an R2 university. 

Your characterization of the process and purpose of a college education and appreciation of the variety of venues in which education happens at Lehigh captured much of what we are working to achieve.  As an unshakably student-centered university, our core purpose includes your being prepared to do good and to do well in the world, with each of your paths being chosen according to your interests, your passions, your talents and your temperaments.

Regardless of the path you set out on, it will change. Key to preparation for the world you inherit is the ability to move through it with your eyes open, noticing things that others might miss, posing good questions and devising strategies for answering them, proceeding with critical reflection no matter how much you want something to be true, and seizing opportunity when you see it while being broadly aware of the implications. As accomplished scholars, this way of being — observing, questioning, seeing possibility and testing it carefully — is second nature to your faculty.

That’s why members of the Lehigh faculty are skilled mentors of Strohl projects and Mountaintop projects, and why an independent study at Lehigh can be so deep and difficult and rewarding. It’s why undergraduate students are invited into research groups to work with graduate students and faculty, why when a Lehigh faculty member does research in another part of the world, it’s likely that students are involved, and why students pursuing their own endeavors have such depth on which to draw. It’s why a Lehigh faculty member is quick to cite an experiment that upended thinking in a field or a book that changed minds. It’s the origin of what can happen when one of your professors pulls the chairs into a circle around a manuscript or a data set and invites discussion.

We have high aspirations as a research university. In research as in teaching, we expect excellence everywhere. We intend to develop in areas of particular strength and to do work whose import extends well beyond academic circles. We intend to be globally connected, both academically and with the professional and lay communities that depend on us. These things are a foundation for an ever richer educational experience. As a student-centered research university, ours is a unified mission.

Alan J. Snyder, Ph.D
Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies

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1 Comment

  1. Amy Charles '89 on

    “As an unshakably student-centered university, our core purpose includes your being prepared to do good and to do well in the world….”

    True story:

    So I’m helping this kid write his resume and essays for consulting-job apps, and he’s impressed by all their teamwork and meaningful-work talk in the recruitment material and he’s going to town on it in his essays. And I tell him: look, kid. That’s Marketing Jobs to Millennials 101. You’re supposed to turn up your nose at jobs unless you get social meaning, lots of recognition, speedy advancement, and team-caring-about-each-other out of work. So every company the recruiters want to pitch to you are Paul-Ryan-earnest about social meaning, lots of recognition, etc. But it’s mostly if not all baloney and if you reflect it back at them this hard they’ll think you’re weird and might actually mean it. What they want is to see that you’re housebroken and polite, but at bottom you understand this is about making money. Lots of money. And you want in. So the vibe should be “doing well by doing good”. That’s the wink and a nod, see. You’re not just greedy — your greed will involve some kind of social goodness emerging! It’s soft-soap Gekko. Only don’t use that quote, don’t say explicitly “I want to do well by doing good” or some such, because that’s a cliché.

    Which is apparently still in baldfaced use. Ah, me.

    Can’t you guys just do a lot of Mamet plays, with Arthur Miller and Tony Kushner for chasers? They make the same points, only so much more colorfully.

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