Watching President Barack Obama announce College President Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to lead the World Bank with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ’83 at his side,was one of my proudest moments as a student of Dartmouth College. The nomination of our president to lead one of the most important institutions devoted to lifting developing nations out of poverty affirms Dartmouth’s impressive tradition of developing the future leaders of our country and the world. This occasion is a testament to the commitment of members of the Dartmouth community, both past and present, to make the world’s troubles their own.
Some will criticize Kim’s decision to leave the College so early in his tenure. But there are bigger problems in the world than those at Dartmouth, and if the White House and World Bank’s board believe our president is best equipped to tackle the world’s gravest challenges, then we should support his departure.
While we can cope with the loss of our president, the developing world cannot afford any delay in appointing the most qualified individual to lead the World Bank. Kim’s development expertise and administrative experience at the helm of both the College and the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization gives him the vision necessary to lead the World Bank at this critical juncture in its history.
President Kim’s likely departure presents some benefits and several challenges for the Dartmouth community. As a result of the new flurry of positive media attention, Dartmouth’s reputation and its ability to attract the brightest faculty and students from all over the world will improve. The challenge, however, is that our college is in need of strong leadership now as ever before. With a troika of issues recently taken on by the President’s Office hazing, high-risk drinking and sexual assault but yet to be addressed, the loss of our leader is problematic.
Perhaps this moment, one that improves Dartmouth’s image at the cost of losing leadership on internal issues, is an accurate representation of the legacy President Kim will leave behind. A true visionary, Kim worked to improve Dartmouth’s image, with a new center for research about health care delivery, the organization of the “Leading Voices” lecture series and the formation of a national high-risk drinking collaborative. However, Kim fell short in addressing campus issues and leaves as the College faces increasing scrutiny by the media on Greek organizations’ hazing practices.
The road ahead will by no means be an easy one for Dartmouth. Our new dean of the College must take on more responsibility in addressing student issues. A hefty burden also falls on students to initiate ideas and work with administrators to enact change. After years of calling for a voice in the administration, students must take advantage of the void in the President’s Office and rise to the occasion.
While the dean of the College and students must collaborate to tackle campus issues, the Board of Trustees is faced with the difficult task of finding a new president. After a brief era of outward focus on the College’s image and alumni base, our institution needs a leader who will look inwards and address the serious issues miring our campus.
The next few months will require dynamic changes in administrative structures, but the benefit of President Kim’s short tenure is that the administration may possess some institutional memory of the Wright-Kim transition period. Although the loss of our president may cause some tumult, we as students should embrace every opportunity to make our voices heard in administration.
Much uncertainty lies ahead for Dartmouth, including the future of Dartmouth’s administration and the long-term impact of the media attention on hazing. In the present, one thing is clear: Kim’s nomination to the World Bank presidency should bring great pride to the Dartmouth community. While he may leave behind unfinished business as Dartmouth’s president, his personal tale of making global issues his life’s calling will inspire a new generation of leaders. For that, I salute you, President Kim.