Spring 2015 Bulletin

From the President

In 1993, Academy President Leo Beranek wrote in the Records of the Academy, “The Academy was founded on the idea that this nation could be best served by an institution that avoided every narrow form of partisanship–one that sought to involve individuals whose interests were diverse, who espoused no single philosophy and belonged to no one profession. Today, as an institution free of public and private constraints, the Academy is uniquely situated to bring the intellectual resources of its membership to bear on the social and intellectual dilemmas facing the country and the world.”

This theme of member engagement, of encouraging the Academy’s diverse membership to work together on “the social and intellectual dilemmas facing the country and the world,” has been central to the Academy’s activity since 1780. And it has been a special point of emphasis over the past academic year. There are more than ten studies now underway at the Academy, together drawing on the intellectual resources of hundreds of members. From the Lincoln Project on public research universities, to the Alternative Energy Future project, to an emerging study on New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology, and War, these studies engage members from diverse professions and disciplines and bring them together to collaborate and serve the nation in areas of great need. Updates on several of these projects are provided in this issue of the Bulletin.

I would like to welcome the newly elected Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members of the Academy, some of whom are already contributing to the Academy’s work as authors in Dædalus or as advisors on projects and studies. The names of the 197 new members elected in April may be found on pages 53–55 of this issue. I hope you will reach out to your new colleagues and encourage them to become engaged and active in the Academy.

This academic year we have also made a special effort to bring the Academy to its members, traveling to twelve cities around the country and hosting over twenty-five events, many of them following up on our science report Restoring the Foundation. In addition to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, we have held meetings in cities and at institutions where the Academy has not traditionally met, such as in Princeton, New Haven, Philadelphia, Durham, Atlanta, and Houston. In all, over 850 members have attended an Academy event in person during this academic year. And we have heard the clear demand for more programs: The Academy is increasing its programming at the House of the Academy in Cambridge, adding, for example, more musical performances and presentations. Our Stated Meetings, meanwhile, have been live-streamed to New York and Chicago, with more cities to be added next year. This issue of the Bulletin includes transcripts of some of the diverse programs that have recently been presented; we welcome your suggestions of discussion topics and event locations for next year.

The Academy is also establishing committees at universities and in local communities around the nation to host and facilitate meetings of Academy members on topics of mutual interest. Local committees have been established in the Princeton and Philadelphia areas, and plans are underway to form committees in North Carolina and Southern California. In the coming year we will also work to establish committees in New Haven, New York, Chicago, Houston, and San Francisco.

In addition to our traditional portfolio of projects and events, the Academy has established a new Exploratory Fund to enable members to convene colleagues from a range of disciplines and institutions and explore questions of shared interest. The first proposals to receive Exploratory Fund support include a symposium on the state of legal services for the poor, a series of meetings on the future of jazz, and a conference exploring new ideas for communication among people with autism. I encourage you to bring your ideas forward in a letter or phone call to me.

Looking ahead, communications from the Academy will also provide more space for members to share their work and ideas. We have introduced a new section in this issue of the Bulletin, entitled “On the Professions,” as a way for members to stimulate conversations about their work and new developments in their fields. I hope you will consider contributing to this feature.

Clearly, there are many new opportunities for members to be engaged in the work and life of the Academy. To strengthen the Academy’s capacity to serve its members, the Academy has created a position of Director of Member Engagement. I am pleased to report that Laurie McDonough will join the Academy in this capacity on June 1. For the past ten years Laurie has worked at the Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences, where she planned and implemented outreach, stewardship, and engagement events. Laurie earned an A.B. in Chemistry from Bowdoin College and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Colorado.

I hope you will find in this issue, and in the Academy more generally, many reasons to participate in the Academy’s work and opportunities to address “the social and intellectual dilemmas facing the country and the world.”

I wish you a restful and productive summer and, as always, welcome your questions about the Academy and suggestions for its future. Please feel free to write me at " + email + sym + emailHost + "") //--> .

Jonathan F. Fanton