Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

True Ambition?

In my new job at Wake Forest University, I am joining an inspirational university president, Nathan Hatch, who is determined to address a crucial problem facing American universities. What role can the university play in guiding and educating its students to think more clearly about who they are and how to think more clearly about their connection to the world, especially as it relates to their career choices, their vocation, and their contribution to the common good? President Hatch has spoken and written on this topic (see “Looking Beyond a Paycheck and “Renewing the Wellsprings of Responsibility” ) and recentlysent me this note with some additional thoughts…

This afternoon I was rereading part of David Brooks’ book On Paradise Drive. In his chapter on learning, drawing on extensive time on campus, he has a great section ‘True Ambition’ in which he suggests that even the brightest of college students have a most limited view of the incredible variety of career paths. “In a weird way, the meritocratic system is both too professional and not career-oriented enough. It encourages a professional mind-set in areas where serendipity and curiosity should rule, but it does not give students, even the brilliant ones at top schools, an accurate picture of the real world of work. And if these students are myopic about career prospects, you can imagine how unprepared they are to imagine what a human life should amount to in its totality. . . . But the Achievatron rarely forces students to step back and contemplate the long term. It rarely forces students to think in terms of how a complete life should be lived.” Brooks suggests that, paradoxically, though students seem driven by ambition, in reality they are not ambitious enough.

I am excited to join President Hatch and Wake Forest University to address this problem and develop innovative solutions for Wake and also help other academic institutions. How can we inspire our educators, parents and alumni to mentor and guide our students to be “ambitious” and curious in much greater ways than ever before? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic and continuing the dialogue.

Category: Rethinking Success

One Response to True Ambition?

  1. Ramona Jind says:

    Hi Andy,
    Congratulations on your new appointment. I am sure you will bring tremendous value to your new assignment. Was going through your blog….its wonderful! Hope the family is well.

    Best wishes,