What does a university president do on a sabbatical?

President John Hennessy speaking at the Stanford Center at Peking University in March. Photo by Adam Gorlick

If you are JOHN HENNESSY, one thing you do is catch up on your reading. During his brief sabbatical in spring quarter, President Hennessy tackled an extensive list of books on current challenges facing higher education.

Topics included the importance of the humanities in the 21st century, the future of liberal arts education, technology as a means for providing more customized learning, the long-term issues of capacity and affordability, and threats to higher education from a variety of sources.

Among the books he read:

  • Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, Martha C. Nussbaum
  • The Good of this Place: Values and Challenges in College Education, Richard H. Brodhead
  • Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and Michael B. Horn
  • Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life, Anthony T. Kronman
  • College: What It Was, Is and Should Be, Andrew Delbanco
  • Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities, Richard A. DeMillo
  • Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus
  • DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, Anya Kamenetz
  • Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University, Gaye Tuchman
  • Change.edu: Rebooting for the New Talent Economy, Andrew Rosen

In addition to his reading, President Hennessy also participated in several key university events during his sabbatical. In March, he joined a number of faculty, alumni and trustees in Beijing to dedicate the Stanford Center at Peking University, and in early May, he was back on campus to announce the launch of the Campaign for Stanford Medicine. Last month he also stopped by the Bing Overseas Studies Program in Florence and had a chance to meet with students and tour the Renaissance-era palazzo that will be the new home for the program starting in the fall. In late May, he was a featured speaker at the Wall Street Journal’s executive conference D: All Things Digital.