American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Science Leadership, Women’s Leadership, and Cherry Blossoms

I have just returned from a trip to Washington DC, where the cherry blossoms were bravely brightening the parks, despite temperatures that never rose above the mid-40s.

On my first night I participated in a panel on women’s leadership at the National Archives. I joined Teresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, and Georgia Nugent, president of Kenyon College. The panel at the National Archives is an annual event, where they invite women leaders from different sectors—this year it focused on academic leaders. One of the several points that I emphasized that evening was the importance of having inspirational and supportive professors to build the confidence necessary for women to become leaders—a fact fully appreciated by the many Wellesley alumnae in the audience, including the Class of 2010, who was strongly represented. In fact, I was both surprised and gratified by the turnout—the William G. McGowan Theater of the National Archives was almost filled, and there was more than 45 minutes of a lively Q and A afterward. Overall, I thought it was a great event. Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education both reported on the panel discussion.

The next day, I attended a day-long meeting of ARISE (Advancing Research In Science and Engineering), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences committee on which I serve. This committee is composed of science leaders from both academia and industry. We continued to work on formulating policy recommendations that would ensure more stable funding of the science enterprise and better cooperation between the government, industry, and universities. As usual the day included much discussion and disputation; for me, the day was inspirational. I was impressed and gratified by the committee’s recognition that the social sciences and humanities often bear the brunt of funding cuts, and by their determination to avoid such cuts. We made good progress and I look forward to the next meeting.

Women leaders, good science, and cherry blossoms—a worthwhile two days.