As much as he may love this university, President Theobald is not Temple born and bred.
He hails from Peoria, Ill., with career pit stops taking him as far as the Washington state and Bloomington, Ind. It’s certainly possible that he adores each and every one of the roughly 39,000 members of the Owl community, but it would be ludicrous to assume that after 10 months on campus, he truly understands what makes each Temple student tick.
He should be applauded for teaching a class in order to better understand just that.
For an hour each Monday during the Fall and Spring semesters, Theobald and his wife, Sheona Mackenzie, are teaching a course on leadership, profiled this week on Page 1. In addition to imparting their own management wisdom on the 24 first-year President’s Scholars in the course, Theobald and Mackenzie have been taking the time each week to pick their students’ brains and delve deeper into the mindset of Temple freshmen.
Theobald is far from the first university president or figurehead to teach a course. He is not reinventing the wheel here. According to a Sept. 9 report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, within the immediate Philadelphia area alone, the presidents of Rutgers-Camden, Bryn Mawr College and La Salle University will all be moonlighting as professors this semester. That being said, previous President Ann Weaver Hart taught no such course during her tenure at Temple and was often criticized for her lack of accessibility. Hart neglected to speak with The Temple News for the etnirety of the Spring 2013 semester.
Theobald’s course certainly represents a step towards university transparency and better student-faculty relations.
If Theobald truly plans to gain a better understanding of the issues that plague Temple students, it may do him well to open up the course to more than the top 175 President’s Scholars in the freshman class.
While high-achieving students absolutely deserve to be rewarded for their accomplishments, Theobald and Mackenzie will surely gain a better understanding of the Owl community by spending weekly time with more than the brightest students Temple has to offer. Of course, Theobald has spent much of his time at Temple speaking to members of this community from all walks of life, but few students have been given the weekly accessibility that Theobald’s current pupils command.
All in all, it can be incredibly hard to speak one-on-one with the leader of a university as an 18-year-old freshman, and Neil Theobald should be commended for making it easier to do just that.