In an effort to better get to know Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd, we are publishing a Q&A series about his selection and the man himself. The first installment featured a conversation with search committee members about the selection and vetting process, and the second featured a look at Dr. Cloyd’s early life. In this installment, we discuss his love for the classroom, his passion for scholarship and what the study of international politics and political theory can teach us about leadership and leading a university. Future conversations in this series are forthcoming.
You’ve told us how much you enjoyed diving into academics as a student. Did you find similar joy once you were in the classroom as a teacher?
I went to graduate school because of my love of learning, the passion I have for my discipline, and the influence professors have had on my life. I wanted the honor of having that same kind of influence on the lives of students. I still feel teaching is my vocation – my calling. I just do it in a different way in the academic presidency. There is not a major in “presidenting.” The education I have had in the liberal arts and the variety of experiences I have had in higher education are perfect for being a president or a college professor.
I love to teach. I first got into the classroom in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a great training ground for honing my craft and style of pedagogy. I not only taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in smaller classes in the honors program and in large lecture halls, but I taught in the Five College Program in which UMass Amherst partnered with four small liberal arts schools: Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College. There I learned how to use a number of techniques to teach – in small groups, tutorials, having students learn by teaching. I also learned to teach students at all kinds of academic levels.
Over the years I have continued to learn new approaches to teaching. For example, I begin every class with “check-in” – each of us go around the room and say what is going on in our life and then we agree to put our thoughts on hold during the class period. Sometimes I use picture cards of all sorts of objects and scenes and ask students to talk about the topic of the day through the object or scene they have selected.
Because students today often tend to think in 140 characters – the length of a tweet – sometimes I assign students a micro-moment in which they have to summarize the topic for the class like a tweet. New media and new technologies have really opened an exciting world to me for teaching. I think all college and university faculty members need have the development opportunities and the resources to use these new technologies in their teaching. We are often afraid to try these new things mostly because we are afraid to admit what we do not know how to do, especially in front of our students. That is why schools need faculty Teaching and Development centers where technology experts and digital librarians can teach us without students looking on!
In what ways have you used new technologies in your classes?
I say “new” technologies because they are new to me, but not to this generation of techno-natives. I am just a techno-immigrant and sometimes techno-ignorant.
Here are some of the ways I have been using technology in my courses. First, I try to create web pages for each one of my courses and provide links to digital video and music content, podcasts, TED talks, and other things I use in class by asking students to watch them or listen to them before class. Those materials can then drive class discussion. I also use something called lecture capture, iTunes lectures, and open source online lectures. Lecture capture allows me to give a talk about something that is digitally captured so students can view it before class – that way class time is not just didactic, but discussion- and team-based. I used to have this presentation I loved to give on World War I, but I found one that Michael Howard, a world-class historian from Oxford, gives online. So now I just have students watch that and we do things like virtual or game simulations based on escalating conflicts in class. I also like to provide class notes online and let students take photos of the white board and chalkboard in class. There are so many fun and innovative things that can be done in teaching using technology. I could go on and on.
Consider this: by the time my son was 13 his room looked like command control at NASA, in fact it probably had better technology than the technology at NASA in the 1980s. His technology interactions were dynamic; he was connected globally playing games with other kids in teams around the world, and now at 16 his games are fast first-person perspective and 3D. In teaching we have to move to where our students are or at least meet them halfway.
Recently, I have become very interested in the growing distinction between online education and emerging HD virtual presence instructional technology. The term “online” is becoming passé. I hope I can bring virtual presence instruction to Drury and make us a “any device, anywhere, anytime” campus.
What are your favorite courses to teach and why?
Wow. Difficult question. I teach a course called Irregular Warfare. I love teaching that course because we cover everything in that area: from theories and strategies of insurgency/counter-insurgency; the use of drones, drone technology, drone targeting, and the domestic use of drones; the complexity of a world of nation-states in conflict with non-state violent actors; the way terrorism/counter-terrorism work; and new and emerging – almost futuristic – technologies being deployed in waging war and in conflicts. But we also explore questions of ethics in war and questions about how these issues are having an impact on questions of democracy and civil liberties in our growing national security state in the United States.
I also like teaching courses in topics and trends in contemporary politics, business, and security where I teach things like cyber security, big data analytics, new media connectivity, and human terrain mapping. In these courses we study how these topics relate to things like privacy, civil liberties, changing markets, property rights, and leadership decisions. In cyber security, for example, we study cyber-crime, cyber-espionage, cyber-terrorism, and cyber-war. The key issues are attacks that involve confidentiality and the theft of intellectual property, denial-of-service attacks, and protecting the integrity of data, data systems, and resilience. These areas of study require a multidisciplinary approach because without knowledge grounded in different disciples you cannot understand the issues in a comprehensive way. We study WikiLeaks, Stuxnet, zero-day vulnerabilities, and we even toy around with The Onion Router. We also study how big data and the use of algorithms is shaping everything from business strategies in marketing to fundraising strategies to higher education marketing.
How did you become a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of World Politics? What was involved in that assignment?
I was doing research on leadership and cooperation in international relations. Mainly, about how leaders and states developed collaboration and cooperation and built, grew, and sustained organizational cultures in international security institutions. My case study was a classified organization in Paris called the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) through which Western states prevented the diffusion of strategic and dual-use highly sophisticated technology to the Soviet Bloc and rouge states. I was asked to work with a DOD office called the Defense Technology Security Agency. So the fellowship from The Institute for the Study of World Politics funded my living and working all over Europe. I spent time interviewing bureaucrats and leaders in Western European countries about the work, focus, and effectiveness of the international organization.
I learned a great deal about organizational culture, about how to listen and ask questions, about diplomacy and how to adapt my style and approach depending on the situation, and about how to quickly orient myself in diverse human environments. I also worked with intelligence agents and people from NATO and the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Command. Basically, we were looking at companies and states that were violating the export control system and countries that were converting the technologies they had imported into military applications. It was a chaotic time in Europe with the Wall coming down so there were a lot of treaty agreement and export control license violations.
How did your early experiences at Vanderbilt University shape your views about higher education, including fundraising?
Vanderbilt gave me a great opportunity to learn about how a university works. I started out teaching in the political science department and ended up working for the provost and then in Vanderbilt’s first comprehensive capital campaign. The experience at Vanderbilt taught me how prestige is the ultimate currency in higher education; it taught me how to work with faculty from across various disciplines, colleges, and schools; and it taught me that one of the primary values for faculty is autonomy.
I worked on developing a university-wide, cross-disciplinary certificate program where undergraduate and graduate students across all disciplines could take a series of courses from any department in the university to earn this certificate that was attached to their transcript. This meant I had to get buy-ins from deans and faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences, The School of Law, The Divinity School, The School of Business, The College of Medicine, and other schools and centers across the university.
It was hard work. But in the end it paid off. Our work laid the foundation for a program, a center, and a major that now exist at Vanderbilt called Medicine, Health, and Society. It is an interdisciplinary field of research, study, and practice that critically examines the social foundations of health. Students learn about health-related beliefs and practices in their political, social, and cultural contexts. The program brings together and integrates teaching and scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences in order to teach students how to approach questions from multiple perspectives. As part of the program, we organized a number of conferences on topics such as the politics of the human body.
I also learned about the challenges of coordinating and integrating initiatives and programs across schools, colleges, and departments in a university. I learned about how costs are driven up and inefficiencies are created because every college wants to do its own decentralized thing.
In addition, in higher education we have not yet learned how to incentivize or to recognize and reward faculty for cross-disciplinary work. While solutions to the world’s problems require the perspectives of multiple disciplines, we tend to silo knowledge.
My work at Vanderbilt reinforced my belief in the importance of creating student experiences that develop competence in a team-based, problem-to-solution orientation from multiple perspectives. This could be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary. But what it means is that colleges and schools in a university have to be interwoven – and not just through the general education program.
As far as fundraising is concerned, I learned the importance of having not just a guiding strategic vision and theme that brings all of the component parts of a university together, but also actual programs that tie everything together. Donors will become more passionate and give more if they can see that they are making a contribution to the solution of a big world problem. They know that these problems and solutions are complex and cannot be solved by the education and scholarship offered by only one discipline or college. That is why fundraising campaigns for one-off projects, buildings, etc., produce fewer overall dollars and dissipate energy. We sometimes think of fundraising in terms of our own needs and the potential loyalty of our graduates. That is okay, but it is not as powerful as a vision.
Beginning in 1988 and continuing through 1997 you authored a dozen or so writings including a book, covering topics ranging from war to trade and the politics of the human body. Are they still topics of interest to you?
Yes, those topics still interest me and I return to them when I am asked to teach or to give a talk for example on war, insurgency, security, terrorism, or the politics of the body. The book Jean Bethke Elshtain and I edited and published with Vanderbilt University Press was called “Politics and the Human Body.” In that book, and in a study guide I published with Vanderbilt as well called “The Gulf War and Just War,” I was blessed to work with some of the leading scholars in the world.
More recently, however, I have been doing research, writing, and teaching on leadership, management, change, and market positioning particularly in higher education and nonprofits. This comes out of my academic work in business, higher education management, and of course my own experience. I have written and presented on “Leading Change,” “The Relationship Between Price, Discount, and Institutional Differentiation,” and “Marketing, Branding, and Positioning in Higher Education.” The book I am working on in leadership studies is about how leaders develop substance, fearlessness, dexterity, resilience and inner peace in the face of disruptive turbulence.
I have had a book contract with Johns Hopkins University Press for a work on “Arms and The Citizen: War Service, Conscription, and the American Experience” in which I reflect on the potential benefits to our nation of reinstituting conscription in some form and have been doing research on a project called “NATO’s Decline and the United States’ Pivot to the East: A Study of the Rise and Fall of Alliance Strategy.”
But I know I will not be getting back to those projects anytime soon! I plan to be very busy working for Drury.
Given your specialty in international relations and in political theory, what lessons from those fields are useful in leadership and in teaching leadership?
As far as teaching leadership is concerned, there is a great deal to be mined related to those disciplines. In the area of leadership studies and organizational behavior, I teach courses like the art and science of leadership; life narratives, discourse, and leadership; change and leadership; and transformational leadership. In those courses we use contemporary social science.
In Classics and Leadership we study the theories and lives of past great leaders and look for lessons. Certain questions emerge in studying these classics: whether or not leadership is a natural trait or is learned; whether or not a leader creates success or is it just a matter of the external environment and the willingness of followers to create success – followers create successful leaders; whether or not leadership success is defined by specific contexts and historical conditions and therefore there is no universal model for leadership, etc.
People often look to someone like Machiavelli in studying classics and leadership, but there are many other examples that provide different models. Thucydides in the Peloponnesian Wars gives us examples of the failures of leaders and of how heartless action comes back to haunt leaders. Alexander the Great shows us an example of leading from the front and instilling intense loyalty and trust by demonstrating competence, taking risks, treating people fairly, and innovating. Jesus and others provide us a model of servant leadership and show us that the powerful do not always win – that love and kindness can undermine hard power. Napoleon, Wellington, Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee, Churchill, Martin Luther King, and many others show us contrasting models of leadership. One key point is that none of these leaders was perfect. Each had flaws and often deep personal character weaknesses. The experience of failure, rejection, suffering, and overcoming terrible trials and self doubt is, I think, common to all great leaders.
Churchill once said, “Success is one failure after another without losing enthusiasm.” Unless you have been in the position of making consequential decisions for which you will be held accountable, or in a position where you and you alone will be held responsible for the success or failure of an organization over which you may, in fact, have very little authority, it will be difficult to understand the pressure and stress leaders must learn to live with. This is especially true today in our ultra-polarized environment on campuses and off. It is easier to criticize, protest, and deconstruct than it is to build something and to create a compelling vision that others follow and make real.
Many of the leaders we study were involved in war and conflict. Why does this teach us about leadership? Because it is an experience of great trial and human strife, but it is also about action, resolve, and resilience. Clausewitz said that any human interaction produces a “friction” to be overcome, a “fog” in which decisions must be made in the context of ambiguity, and the need for “audacity” to be decisive in action. But the classics also show the enduring truth that “hubris always brings nemeses” and that the wings of Icarus always eventually melt.