President Kim looks back on three years at the College
By The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 8, 2012
College President Jim Yong Kim, who will be leaving on June 30 to assume the presidency of the World Bank, reflects on his experiences at Dartmouth, his accomplishments as president and his hopes for the College’s future in an email interview with The Dartmouth.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishments at Dartmouth?
I am proud that I took the time to dig into Dartmouth’s DNA: the traditions, social institutions and the things that make it great. I invested time talking with faculty, alumni and students, which helped me understand and embrace what makes Dartmouth unique.
The fact that we focus so much on teaching, scholarship and global engagement distinguishes us. I hope I helped people see that clearly.
I am also very proud of our health care delivery work and of the National College Health Improvement Program. Through NCHIP, we created a group initiative that now counts 32 colleges and universities as members. We took an approach — the breakthrough collaborative model — I used with great success earlier in my career and applied it to higher education to tackle an important student life issue: high-risk drinking. No one has ever done that before. We’ve already started to see positive results, and I know we will see more.
I am also pleased that we were not afraid to launch a strategic planning process while we worked so hard to close the $100 million budget gap. Many schools would have been content to just put its financial house in order, but we knew without an ambitious plan for the future the job was only half done. I am proud that Dartmouth had the courage to do both. Knowing what you know now and having been president for nearly three years, what, if anything, would you have approached differently if you could?
I was not expecting to start my tenure at Dartmouth in the middle of a global economic meltdown. We had to deal with some really challenging, time-consuming issues right away. There was no alternative. But it meant that I was unable to spend more time as just another member of the community. If I could do something differently, it would be to find more time to enjoy casual interactions with students, faculty and the community as a whole.
Which of your projects do you think will require the most energy from future presidents to maintain, and which projects do you think are most important for the College’s long-term health?
Dartmouth has to push forward with ever higher aspirations. If we don’t have high aspirations, in the current environment where every great institution of higher education is pushing forward, we will go backwards. I hope that what I helped to do was to craft a vision, an aggressively aspirational vision, of what Dartmouth can be based on its traditions and its core DNA.
What do you want to see in the next College president?
The next president will bring his or her own vision to Dartmouth, but I hope that he or she recognizes the unique qualities of this place and uses them as a foundation to move forward.
Most of all, the next president has to want great things for this institution. Dartmouth deserves someone who will not accept the status quo — that Dartmouth is good enough as is. It can and must be better.
Your expertise is largely health care-related — how have you ensured the long-term sustainability of major projects that are specific to your interests and area of expertise?
They will continue after I’m gone, because in a way, they were here before I arrived. It’s important to understand that the Center for Health Care Delivery Science is comprised of different parts of Dartmouth that have long existed: The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Tuck School of Business, Thayer Engineering School and Geisel School of Medicine. The idea to bring these institutions closer together was mine, but what has been developed is so much better than what I could have imagined. The faculty has come up with innovative ways to present material never before seen in higher education, in part due to the interdisciplinary structure and creative approach to distance learning we created. I’m confident that the Center will grow and do great things without me.
How have you been helping Provost Carol Folt prepare to assume the role of interim president?
Carol is a close friend and has been an invaluable partner in my work here. We’ve met regularly throughout my presidency, and we will continue to be in close touch when I leave. She has been involved in and contributed to every tough decision that I have had to make. She’s a world-renowned scholar and one of the most effective academic administrators I’ve ever met. Since the Board announced her new role, we’ve met even more often. She will hit the ground running and build on the strong momentum we have developed over the last couple of years.
What will you miss most about being president of the College?
That’s easy: the people. Dartmouth students, faculty and staff have all been so good to my family and me.
I love their passion. Whether it’s at an alumni event, a football game at Memorial Field, conversations with students at a Palaeopitus event or meeting with faculty to discuss their latest scholarship, Dartmouth binds people together in a wonderful way. I love that, and I love the people. Is there anything else you want to say to the student body and community as you prepare to leave the College in a month?
It has been a privilege to serve as Dartmouth’s president and support the ambitions of this community. Wherever I am in the world, I will always represent Dartmouth as its 17th president. I look forward to sharing Commencement with the Class of 2012 and to seeing students, faculty, staff and alumni in the years to come. My affection for this great place will last forever.