Higher Ed: Self Promotion In Academia

A provocative column this year in The Chronicle of Higher Education laments the rise of what the author calls the “promotional intellectual.” Dr. Jeffrey J. Williams of Carnegie Mellon University believes the old adage in academia of “publish or perish” has evolved into “promote or perish.” In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss promoting one’s academic work.

Ed is quick to distinguish between what he acknowledges is probably uncomfortable for many academics – self promotion – and the enthusiastic sharing of an academic subject or idea.

“It should be about: I am passionate about this particular suite of ideas or this set of human knowledge and I believe there is power and there is import to have other people embrace it, too ,” says Ed. “And if it happens to not be in fashion today, then I’ve got to go out and I’ve got to promote the thing that I’m passionate about.”

But Ed believes “it’s one thing to say, in my case, I love Math and I want everyone to appreciate Math, even if you don’t love it versus I want everyone to love Ed Burger.” He says he’s “less interested in that, which I don’t think serves the kind of greater good, as much as saying look, here’s a suite of ideas I’ve spent a lifetime learning. Let me share the joy of it with you and the power of it with you versus hey, here I am. Let me tell you how awesome I am.”

Listen to the entire episode for a further discussion about promotion in academia and to hear a new puzzler. Ready to escape from a fire-breathing dragon?

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.