Message from the Director: Thinking Again

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Director of the Belin-Blank Center

Longer nights, cooler days, and brightly colored falling leaves signal that the school year is well underway, and it’s time to start planning for summer! Yes, that’s right, summer is very much on our minds, and we look forward to implementing all that we’ve learned over the past year and a half. 

Recent director’s messages have addressed the collaborative efforts of the fantastic Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff to re-imagine our services and programming during the pandemic. However, I hadn’t discussed how we adjusted our thinking, accepting a new level of ambiguity and change. This message offers a glimpse into that process.  

Late November afternoon light illuminating the Pentacrest.

A colleague recently discussed Adam Grant’s newest book, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, with our first-year Bucksbaum Academy students. It’s been many years since I was a first-year student; however, we all get a fresh start at the beginning of each academic year. Because “thinking again” seems to dominate my thoughts these days, I  downloaded the book and was captivated from the start. There are many takeaways from Grant’s book, but two crucial words capture its essence: “humility” and “flexibility.” 

Humility has many dimensions, but at its core, it is the acknowledgment that even if we know a lot, we don’t know everything. As knowledge in all fields increases exponentially, there is little hope of keeping up entirely. Grant suggests that if “knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” 

Flexibility, too, manifests itself in multiple ways. The consequences of showing cognitive flexibility – or inflexibility – can be far-reaching. If my colleagues at the Belin-Blank Center were not cognitively flexible, our services and programs would no longer be relevant. Thankfully, they have demonstrated cognitive flexibility in spades and our services and programming are more relevant today than ever. We also understand the process is continuous.  

The combination of intellectual humility and cognitive flexibility leads to progress. We are not only thinking about summer when the days will be longer and hotter, and we will look for shade under lush green trees. We are “thinking again” well beyond summer 2022.  

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