With new leadership comes new opportunities to redefine Tech and its culture. This week’s official appointment of George P. “Bud” Peterson as Tech’s president offers a chance for change.
Although many past traditions and initiatives will undoubtedly be maintained, Peterson’s fresh outlook could translate into a culture shift at Tech. For one, Peterson should bring the thriving entrepreneurial spirit of Boulder to campus. Tech and the city of Atlanta have all the potential they need to be at the crossroads of business and technology.
Despite being a top research institution, the quality of teaching at Tech is lacking. Excellence in research should remain a primary focus for the Institute in recruiting the best professors, but a change in the teaching culture is in order. More visible incentives that reward excellence in teaching should be put in place. Given his long teaching background, Peterson is the right person to begin this shift.
The quality of student life also needs attention. As someone who understands the value of the college experience, Peterson should come in with a new perspective on improving student life and boosting morale on campus. Along the same lines, the culture of learning at Tech can be transformed from one that values rankings, grades and getting a job over curiosity, problem solving and flexibility.
While Peterson’s engineering background is an obvious match for Tech, the Institute could gain from expanding its focus beyond this one area. Interdisciplinary and non-engineering programs should not be left out of the spotlight. In addition, Tech could benefit from a culture of collaboration in which students are encouraged to explore different fields at the many universities nearby.
Another opportunity for Peterson is to improve Tech’s culture of communication. The current decentralized and disjointed channels that connect the administration, faculty and students leave much to be desired. Greater transparency and convenience are needed to make information available at everyone’s fingertips.
Beyond the obvious, Peterson’s arrival could mark the beginning of a new era for the Institute and its still-developing culture. His legacy is yet to be written.