“Civil Wars and Deanship” is keynote theme at CMC Convocation

Dean Peter Uvin during the 2015 Convocation


Hundreds of students and faculty came together last Friday in McKenna Auditorium during CMC’s 69th Convocation Ceremony to kick-off the school year with speeches and song and to honor CMCers for years of service and achievement.

To President Chodosh, convocation creates a moment to recharge purpose, rededicate to learning and offers an opportunity to be mindful that the quality of our intellect, our behavior and our shared sense of community are central to our broader purpose and success.

“So in this moment – whether we are stuck or transformative – depends on each of us and what we can learn,” he said. “CMC is dedicated to grappling with the major questions confronting our civilization – to get things done for ourselves and society around us.”

The Convocation’s Keynote Address “Civil Wars and Deanship: Parallels and Insights,” was delivered by Peter Uvin, the newly appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. 

Uvin spent nearly two decades working in Africa chiefly in the areas of conflict prevention and democracy rights. During that time he was involved in trying to find resolutions to civil wars and conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda, Chad and Niger, among other countries.

After acknowledging the key differences between civil wars and academic communities, Uvin discussed how the causes or deeper drivers of civil wars, as well as the solutions to them, are similar to the challenges of managing a college or university. He said that the things that can and do frequently go wrong in higher education are fundamentally nearly identical to those that go wrong in countries at war.

He enumerated that the five signposts that will guide him at CMC are remarkably similar to those that guided him in his conflict resolution work in Africa.

Shared sense of community 
“One of the key factors in the civil wars I have worked in is the fundamental absence of a shared sense of community: there were always significant groups of people who deeply felt that some category of others just did not belong in their country, town, or neighborhood. … In my own discipline, I have seen—and been part of—departments that have been so profoundly divided between people who used quantitative and qualitative methods that they could not hold a normal faculty meeting anymore and thought of each member of the other group as an enemy. Much of my job here, as in Africa, is to find ways to include, to re-humanize, to rebuild community where it broke down.” 

Legitimate institutions
“… If there is one thing I have learned from my work as a scholar and practitioner, it is that institutions are fragile things. Institutions have formal elements—rules, offices and officers—and informal ones—expectations, beliefs, and habits. Both take a long time to emerge and, unfortunately, both are easily destroyed. It is especially the informal parts that matter for the health of institutions: we can keep the buildings and the accounts and the rules in the books, but once people stop believing in the values of the institution, the real, de facto institution will rapidly move away from the formal, de jure one. This holds true for colleges and universities as well.” 

“One of the core factors that undermine institutions, eating away at their legitimacy, is a lack of predictability —and that holds for countries in Africa as much as for colleges and universities in the U.S. It is at the very heart of nearly every situation of civil war I have ever seen.”

Relish difference
“My fourth signpost points to the difficulty, beauty and absolute imperative of being able to work across differences. I have learned, in peace-building and really in any form of social change, that the key to sustainable success is the capability to include the difficult people, the negative forces, the ones you don’t understand or share nothing with. “

“Finally, I am coming to the most important signpost in my life.  R-e-s-p-e-c-t. It is the immediate corollary of much of what I have talked about so far—sense of community, the relishing of difference, the legitimacy of institutions. A good society is a society whose institutions and practices do not humiliate its members. This holds for a college as much as for a country. Blows to people’s sense of dignity and self-respect are the core source of unhappiness in this world. “


Underscoring Chodosh’s and Uvin’s remarks, ASCMC President William W. Su ’16 challenged students, faculty and administrators at CMC to be more courageous.

“Why do we need courage today?  I think our institution is in the midst of great change that requires us to go above and beyond,” Su said. “Themes of personal and social responsibility and concepts like changemaking have saturated our conversations for far too long, and our next big step is to take action. It is time to take responsibility. It is time to take the future of our institution into our own hands. Our liberal arts education prides itself on developing critical thinking. Now is the time to put the liberal arts in action and act with courage.”

Su challenged attendees to exit their comfort zones and seek greatness in discomfort; to choose courses and work not for the ease, but for the rigor and to satisfy particular curiosities. 


CMC faculty and staff honored at Convocation, included:

25 Years Service

•    Sven Arndt, the Charles M. Stone Professor of Money, Credit, and Trade
•    John Farrell, Professor of Literature
•    Cynthia Humes P’15, Associate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer and Associate Professor of Religious Studies
•    Joseph Bessette, the Alice Tweed Tuohy Professor of Government and Ethics 
•    Rafael Huereca, a building attendant to different CMC residence halls, who now works in the W. M. Keck Science Center

30 Years of Service

•    Robin Aspinall, the Vice President for Business and Administration and Treasurer
•    Teresa Ruiz, Housekeeping Supervisor
•    John Faranda ’79, Vice President and Ambassador-at-Large 

35 Years of Service

•    Teresa Hidalgo, Senior Assistant and Assistant Secretary of the College in the Office of the Board of Trustees, Office of the General Counsel and Office of Administration and Planning
•    Nicholas O. Warner, Professor of Literature 
•    Marc Massoud P’89, Robert A. Day Distinguished Professor of Accounting 

45 Years of Service

•    Stephen Davis the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy

Faculty Recognition

•    Prof. Nicholas O. Warner is awarded the Presidential Award for Merit
•    Profs. Amy L. Kind and Daniel A. Krauss are awarded the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award
•    Prof. Roderic A. Camp is awarded the Roy P. Crocker Award for Merit
•    Prof. Giorgi Areshidze is awarded the Glenn R. Huntoon Award for Superior Teaching
•    Prof. Paul E. Hurley is awarded the G. David Huntoon Senior Teaching Award

New Faculty

•    Henri Cole, Professor of Literature
•    Stacey Doan, Assistant Professor of Psychology
•    Andrew Finley, Assistant Professor of Economics
•    William Lincoln, Assistant Professor of Economics
•    Daniel Livesay, Assistant Professor of History
•    Rory Spence, Assistant Professor of Biology
•    Sharda Umanath, Assistant Professor of Psychology
•    Jamel Velji, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
•    Angela Vossmeyer, Assistant Professor of Economics
•    William Walkenbach, Assistant Professor of Physical Education

2015 Exceptional Service Awards

•    Deborah Johnson P’03, Web Content Manager, Office of Public Affairs and Communications
•    Dianna Graves ’98, Director of Academic Planning, Office of the Dean of the Faculty






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