By: Rachael Jennings
Over March break, Brad Bates, Head of School, received some thrilling news: he has been nominated by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and selected to be an Arthur Vining Davis Fellow at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which runs from June 26-July 22, 2016. The Festival defines itself as “the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times.” At the Festival, “some 350 presenters, 200 sessions, and 3,000 attendees comprise the annual Festival, launched in 2005, on the Aspen Institute’s campus in Aspen, Colorado.” Participants attend workshops, panels, and seminars focused around topics ranging from the arts, politics and economics, U.S. Policy, and the environment to technology, health, and education.
The Aspen Institute’s mission is “twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.” The Aspen Institute shares a partnership with The Atlantic.
Each year, the Aspen Institute’s Arthur Vining Davis Foundation offers Festival scholarships to remarkable leaders and thinkers across the nation. This year’s nominees include, along with Mr. Bates, Chapman Phillips, the Dean of the College of Business and Economics at Lehigh University; Charles Iacovou, the Dean of the School of Business at Wake Forest University; Charles Pava, the Dean of the School of Business at Yeshiva University; Brian K. Bridges, Vice President of Research and Member Engagement at the United Negro College Fund; Hari Stephen Kumar, Instructional Designer and Technologist at Amherst College; Nadia Malik, Founding Board Member and Treasurer, Co-founder and CEO of the Muslim Women’s Fund and the Global Partnership for Women and Girls; Donald Senior, President Emeritus of the Catholic Theological Union; Katherine Wilkinson, the Director of Strategy and Activation of BrightHouse and author of Between God & Green; Greg Cajete, Director of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico; and Amy Butler, Senior Pastor of Riverside Church.
Until he received the news, Bates was unaware that he had been in the running for this honor. “It appears that members of the Foundation can submit nominations for these fellowships,” he says. “I am truly honored to have been nominated and selected.”
Since learning about this opportunity, Bates has begun examining the workshop and speaker schedules; however, he is also eager to collaborate and exchange questions and ideas with the other Arthur Vining Davis Fellows. “There will be attendees from the business world, from colleges and the graduate schools, from nonprofits like the United Negro College fund, and from religious institutions,” he says. “Also, I am big fan of Walter Isaacson and hope to attend any of the sessions he is leading.”
Bates has long been interested in issues related to identity—as he says, “specifically how both individual and shared history shapes who we are”—so, he looks forward to narrowing his focus around these issues and learning and sharing alongside other passionate leaders. “I am fascinated by how humans use things like museums and memorials in an attempt to control and explain the past,” he notes.
Given his research and scholarship interests, Bates is particularly intrigued by the “Arts: Culture and Identity” thread of the Aspen festival. This particular track “examines the messages and mediums of culture as it changes along with our nation, reframing and challenging our understanding of ourselves.” It raises questions like: “Who are ‘we’ in 2016? What is American identity? With ongoing debates over race, sexuality, economic inequality, and political divisions spilling onto our screens and stages, and into our books and museums, how does culture play into defining and shaping our ever evolving American identity? And in our increasingly technologically enabled silos, how can our culture help us to recognize and relate to each other as humans?”
While Bates will be discussing global issues at the Aspen Ideas Festival come June, some of his richest ideas center around what we do here at Dublin and, relatedly, how what we do at Dublin might set an example for other curiosity-focused, intellectual, experimental schools across the nation and around the world.
“I am most interested in the idea of simplifying the education we offer our students. I think The Finnish educational system provides a great example of a simplified and effective educational system,” notes Bates. “However, independent schools like Dublin School can take that model a step further and place greater emphasis on critical thinking. I like ideas that allow our students to delve deeply into topics rather than spreading our curriculum and making it too thin. I like curriculum design and approaches to learning that put students in the position where they are craving their own knowledge and understanding.”
From our idea-rich campus in New Hampshire to the one that will welcome Mr. Bates in Aspen, we wish him congratulations and even more opportunities to crave knowledge and ideas that will transform schools and lives.