Message from Dean
It is an enormous privilege and pleasure to serve as dean of the Division of Humanities at UCLA. Administrative work can seem like such a radical departure from research and teaching that newly appointed chairs and deans often hear simultaneous congratulations and condolences from their colleagues, who observe wryly that we are “going over to the dark side.” But for every academic leader there are illuminating continuities between scholarship and practical leadership. In my case, life in the dean’s office has been a bit like fieldwork in the subject I have long researched, that is, early Chinese thought in a comparative perspective. The Chinese of the first millennium BCE wrote obsessively about the problem of designing and maintaining complex human organizations, about the challenge of maintaining open communications within such organizations, about the balance between individual aspirations and collective aims—and most especially about the uses and abuses of tradition. Reading their texts has led to a good deal of reflection on how our institution can reach its highest aims, both through careful innovation in our research and in the art of teaching and through thoughtful reevaluation of the approaches of our predecessors. My aspiration for the division is that all of us, from newly arrived undergraduates to faculty members who have spent their whole careers here, will have a part in creating an open, lively community of ideas, and that together we will continually discover new ways of thinking through the humanistic legacy and new ways of using it to enrich our lives and the lives of the people around us.