Often when we go through transitions, we discover that with the new reality comes a reinforcement of our core principles or values. As fall has arrived, my focus has been on change—in my personal life and at the Academy. As so many parents have done over generations, I recently helped my oldest child move out of our home for the first time. At the Academy, we have been reflecting on and crystallizing a vision for the next chapter. In both cases, it has been essential to remember, and keep in sight, what is most important.
Delving into the vast social science on successfully managing change, I found a key strategy emerging: Find and focus on a through line that asks How is the future connected to the past? At 153 years old and going strong, the Academy has welcomed and connected Wisconsinites to extraordinary people and ideas. The Academy has always centered itself around intellectual independence, nonpartisanship, and the enlightening power of the sciences, arts, and letters. This is true of the Academy today.
Currently, we see a continued and increasing need to build relationships, establish common ground, and cultivate respectful dialogue, even as we explore powerful and sometimes challenging topics. We are taking steps so that the Academy increasingly reflects the expertise of a broader range of Wisconsinites, including those from outside academia and from communities too long overlooked. And while we hold more programming outside Madison and ensure online participation is an option, the experiences that we offer will continue to reflect the spirit and mandate envisioned for the Academy over a century and a half ago.
As we find ways to improve and move forward, the core of the Academy remains our touchstone: that when we engage together with the sciences, arts, and letters, it improves life in Wisconsin. In the Academy’s case as well as with my personal transition as a parent of a grown child, we are building toward a sustained, strong connection. Seasons and times change, but what is important endures.