The other day I was communicating with a colleague at my school. In the course of our discussion, she mentioned that she is now a grandmother.
This is a colleague whom I greatly respect. She is wicked smart and unfailingly modest. She is a colleague that I reach out to when I need to connect with someone who knows how to navigate the culture and structures of the institution to get things done.
At this point in my life, my peers are now also becoming grandparents.
Folks who I think of as contemporaries have children with children.
With two kids in college, I tend to think that I am a ways away from being a grandparent. But I’m told that it comes fast.
Grandparents, in my experience, are the best.
The grandparents that I have known best – my own and my kid’s grandparents – are very wise.
Grandparents take the long-view. They tend to think in terms of the world that their grandkids will inherit.
Success for grandparents is measured not by their career progression or current status, but in the well-being of their grandkids.
Most grandparents are either at the apex of their careers or have transitioned into semi or full retirement. They have little left to prove professionally. And they also know the limits to happiness that career success can provide.
All of which begs the question, are grandparents our best higher ed colleagues?
If our most significant scarcity in running our colleges and universities is not truly a lack of resources, but a lack of wisdom for how to judiciously utilize the resources we have, shouldn’t we look to the wise grandparents for guidance?
One aspect of higher education that I’ve always appreciated is that we do respect experience. Age discrimination is inescapable in many of our adjacent industries. Tech is well known as an industry that is difficult to navigate as one ages.
I think that we are better in higher ed in honoring experience, grandparents included. But I’m also confident that this is not universal, and that we have a ways to travel.
For those of you who are both grandparents and academics, is my hypothesis that you are better at taking the long-view based in reality?
Is there something special about entering into the role of grandparenthood that causes one to think beyond one’s lifetime, and does this translate into how one approaches an academic career?
Does your campus have a “take your grandchild” to work day? Should it?
Did becoming a grandparent change how you think about the future of higher education, and the course of your academic career?