Today G. Wayne Clough, the president of Georgia Tech, announced his plans to step down as of mid-summer to take the top post at the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian has been plagued by many problems in recent years, from major budget overruns to a crippling executive corruption scandal last year that forced the last Secretary out. The challenges of the new post are many.

I’ve had the opportunity to spend more than a little time with Wayne Clough during my tenure at Georgia Tech, including presenting my recent work at last year’s president’s retreat. I’ve enjoyed these experiences quite a bit, and it has been validating to have my work recognized so personally by the president.

Thinking about that recognition, something struck me about both news coverage of the announcement and the Smithsonian press conference itself: both cite Clough’s experience managing change across many disciplines in a large organization as one of the major reasons the Smithsonian board of regents selected him. From the NY Times:

In addition to improving Georgia Techâ??s reputation in science, Mr. Clough has emphasized humanities education, establishing two endowed chairs in poetry, the Smithsonian said. He has also strengthened the universityâ??s commitment to public policy and public service.

The poetry chairs mentioned reside in my school at Georgia Tech, and more personally, everything I do as a scholar and educator involves making connections between the liberal arts and computing. I’ll have to admit a measure of apprehension about how this torch will be passed to his successor, but also a sense of pride that those connections have received this additional, if supremely indirect, validation.

More immediately, thinking about the various opportunities and challenges of running the Smithsonian reminded me of the keynote presentation I made at the Game Developers Conference last month, which was about the problems of interdisciplinarity in the context of videogame education. The talk had been covered in part at Game Career Guide, but not in full.

So I took the opportunity to write up and post a complete text version of the presentation here on this website.

published March 16, 2008