CAREER: Forging a Community of Inspiration
Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
Remarks, NSF CAREER PI Mentoring & Networking Workshop
Stafford II, Room 555
January 22, 2004
Thank you for your warm welcome, and good morning to all of you. I have
been looking forward to this event. On behalf of NSF, I want to give a special
thank you to Alison and Theresa for all their hard work in organizing this
gathering of stellar talent.
As CAREER awardees, you represent the unlimited promise of U.S.
research and education in the 21st Century. I am particularly pleased
to join you at a workshop dedicated to mentoring and networking
-- the two principles that shaped and sustained my own career,
mostly without my even knowing such principles were in play.
This gathering provides a powerful opportunity for you to catalyze
the force of your collective strength and the promise of your collective
leadership. I have titled my remarks "CAREER: Forging a Community
of Inspiration," because you have already begun to build new
networks of learning and innovation. I am convinced that forging
a "community of inspiration" is essential to each individual
here, as well as to the future vigor of our science and engineering
There are now more than 3,000 awardees in the CAREER program since
its inception in 1995. Your peer network has grown from a promising
idea into a powerful community, with senior awardees offering their
junior colleagues advice and counsel on tenure, career fulfillment,
and the best ideas for integrating research and education. At a
fundamental level, you all share the transformative influence exercised
by the most inspired teachers.
A passion for education wrapped in an atmosphere of discovery
is the driving force of our nation's path for leadership in today's
eclectic knowledge-based society. A higher level of learning and
creative thinking is becoming essential in all sectors of societal
activity. And a richer and deeper integration of research and education
has become a core principle for a robust career over a lifetime.
You are among the leaders of this important transition. The future
prosperity of our nation will very much depend on the capacity,
capability, and commitment that all of you possess and bring to
the task. You enliven the context of our dialogue; you think and
speak with the passion and excitement that percolates in early
careers. You are foremost among a special group of scientists and
engineers - in your various disciplines and institutions -- who
possess a new lens for learning.
My goal today is to enlist your enthusiasm and experience in advancing
the next generation of new knowledge and innovation. You represent
the spirit and full range of what the Foundation is working to
promote -- the core activities of mentoring and networking that
are so essential to NSF's mission and to our nation's well-being.
Many people think about the CAREER program as being about an individual's
career and professional development. Certainly, it is. But, thanks
to your ongoing influence as teachers and researchers, it is also
about accelerating and expanding opportunities for the development
of all students and citizens.
CAREER is the premiere program at NSF for investing in those individuals
who show the greatest potential for becoming the leading teacher-scholars
and innovators of the 21st Century. The program looks to you as
leaders who can promote the value and practice of mentoring - in
your research, across the full spectrum of discovery, and in your
teaching, which inspires new communities of learners.
Mentoring is a vital human endeavor that is as old as civilization.
In fact, it is a fundamental source of development for all cultures.
Mentoring engages teachers and learners in navigations of the future.
The need for such connection stays constant in every stage and
circumstance of life.
Students everywhere count themselves lucky if they can recall
even just one extraordinary teacher or mentor who helped them realize
their potential. At NSF, we want to ensure that these life-changing
experiences are not only the happenstance of a few fortunate students.
Through your efforts and leadership, we can make many more of these
NSF seeks to leverage talent and to support effective partnerships
across the full scale of S&E disciplines, and the full spectrum
of education levels. This work is exacting, exhilarating, and challenging.
But I make no distinction between challenges and opportunities.
As leaders at your institutions and within the national CAREER
community, you are helping to create the kind of learning society
that will sustain our nation's momentum of discovery and knowledge
NSF was established to keep the nation's science and engineering
enterprise always "at the frontier," and open to all.
We work this mandate by making science and engineering investments
focused on the furthest horizon - that moving target of evolving
discovery. In our daily work we nurture emerging fields, enable
the preparation of the next generation of science and engineering
talent, and convey an understanding of the value and contributions
of science to society.
Since its inception, NSF has responded to a fundamental question
for both the agency and the nation: "How do we increase our
scientific capital?" In his 1944-45 correspondence with Presidents
Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Vannevar Bush offered a concise
"First, we must have plenty of men and women trained in science.
Second, we must strengthen the centers of fundamental research,
which are principally the colleges, universities, and research
institutions. The most important ways in which the Government can
promote industrial research are to increase the flow of new scientific
knowledge through support of basic research, and to aid in the
development of scientific talent."
NSF fosters a network of partnerships to help achieve the nation's
goals, recognizing that our academic partners are the leaders who
create, integrate, and transfer scientific knowledge. At its very
best, our higher education system serves as a creative "hothouse" that
supports continuous learning and contributes new knowledge across
many disciplines. It is clear that all of you in the CAREER community
play a key role in maximizing the nation's scientific capital.
Vannevar Bush would be proud!
I call on you as leaders to expand the community of inspiration
so that it flourishes at your own institutions. You are in a position
to help guide on-going change in academe because you share many
talents above and beyond your core areas of expertise. Let me highlight
four areas of change underway in the academic community and suggest
some of the roles you might play as agents of that change.
First, research and education in higher education is becoming
more integrated. As master integrators, you can shepard this change
by making your research the centerpiece of your teaching. This
integration gives students a direct experience of the real-world
research and discovery processes of science and engineering. It
also works the other way: Student perspectives can inject out-of-the-box
ideas and questions into research thinking.
Second, academe must do more to promote diversity to ensure excellence
in the science and engineering workforce. As futurists, you see
the connection between broadening participation in university science
and engineering programs and creating a U.S. workforce capable
of sustaining the nation's S&E momentum. As teachers and advocates
within academe, you are already leading by example. Success in
this area is essential to creating the community of inspiration.
Third, specialization within institutions of higher learning must
be coupled with cross-boundary approaches. As holistic designers,
you can lead new generations of learners across disciplinary boundaries.
In your research, many of you are already creating exciting new
partnerships across disciplines. It's past time to also infuse
teaching with the benefits of interdisciplinary thinking.
And fourth, new kinds of knowledge must be thoroughly and productively
infused into the larger society. As enterprise enablers, you can
help facilitate dynamic partnerships between the knowledge creators
of academe and U.S. business innovators. Your leadership in promoting
and sustaining these alliances can expedite the introduction of
new ideas and evolving technologies into the economy and the workplace.
Holistic change has been waiting in the wings for many years.
In Mission of the University (1930), José Ortega y Gassett
foresaw the need for synthesis and integration as a function of
academe. He wrote:
"The need to create sound synthesis and systemization of
knowledge…will call out a kind of scientific genius which
hitherto has existed only as an aberration: the genius for integration.
Of necessity this means specialization, as all creative effort
does, but this time the [person] will be specializing in the construction
of the whole."
Leadership of this kind requires consciousness, courage, and an
intuitive interest in the future. A month before the signing of
the Declaration of Independence, John Adams looked into our nation's
future and wrote:
"We are in the very midst of a revolution the most complete,
unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations."
228 years later, "we are in the very midst" of a series
of new revolutions that will determine our next generations' future.
Just like the cosmological universe, human knowledge and our capacities
for creating future knowledge are expanding at an exponential,
These revolutions, both simultaneous and complexly interrelated,
provide our richest opportunity in history to strengthen the learning
community of our nation across all scales of distance, time, scope
and experience. That opportunity is within your talent and capability
We trust your judgment and expertise. And we are grateful for
your energy and enthusiasm for the challenges ahead.
I hope I've left us some time for questions and comments before
your workshop begins.
Return to a list of Dr. Bordogna's speeches.