About 120 freshmen will have the opportunity to take a class taught by Dr. Clancy next fall. The course, titled “An Introduction on How to Get Things Done in a Highly Complex World,” is Clancy’s first Presidential Leaders Fellowship course.
Clancy was inspired to create the course for two main reasons. “First, I do believe presidents should teach. If they are going to be understanding what’s happening in the university, they have to be in the classroom,” he said. As an administrator, he “always has some involvement in the day-to-day work of the organization. The day-to-day work of this university is taking care of students.” However, he also felt he “had some past experience that [he] could transfer to the students that actually may speed things up a little bit.” He hopes to impart to students that what mistakes he’s made, “so in the future when you’re faced with these kinds of things, beware.”
There are three components to Clancy’s course: summer readings, a half-day retreat during freshman orientation week and weekly hour-long sessions taught by Clancy and guest faculty. The book list is “The Worst Hard Time, The Great Dust Bowl,” by Timothy Egan, “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Neheshi Coates and “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in New China,” by Evan Osnos.
The first half of the course will revolve around studying complicated problems from Clancy’s own body of work that have already been addressed. This work includes dealing with the 14 year difference in life expectancy between north and south Tulsa, improving access to care for the homeless mentally ill and improving the waitlist for inpatient psychiatric hospitals. “I had some experience in cases I really wanted to discuss with students,” Clancy said. “This is how you get a good result out of a really complicated environment or a really complicated problem.”
One of the lessons Clancy hopes to impart is that while data is necessary to solve big problems, talking to those involved is also important. “I learned that lesson hard working in north Tulsa,” he recalled. “I was totally data driven in the beginning. I totally missed the other things the north Tulsans wanted.” North Tulsans wrote an opinion piece about OU acting as a “pimp” to the community, as the clinic they opened in north Tulsa used the people’s bodies for money. North Tulsans wanted OU to help them with economic opportunities and jobs, which made Clancy realize that he wasn’t listening to people enough. “Data is going to give you some of the information but the people you are working with are going to give you other things you need to know,” he concluded.
The second half of the class, by contrast, will allow the students to solve complicated problems. The problems will be race relations in America, K-12 education in Oklahoma, healthcare reform and US-China relations. With each problem, Clancy expects the class to come up with a policy statement that will be sent to the state legislature. “I expect the room of students to be really spread out on opinions, but the project they’ll be under is [they] have to come to consensus on something, like Congress has to. You have to come to agreement or you’ll never move forward.”
Finally, the class will end by discussing future options at TU outside of the curriculum. “This is just adding a little guidance to the students,” Clancy said. He wants to avoid making a specific pathway for the students. “Instead, make it a puzzle and you put together the pieces that are best for you. You’re already programmed enough with your major, that you have to take them in this order. This is not going to be like that,” he clarified.
After the class is completed, Clancy plans to offer a follow-up project, the College Philanthropy Initiative, based after a Tulsa high school program called the Youth Philanthropy Initiative, which students work on sophomore through senior year. Clancy’s son went through the high school program and targeted how to integrate kids with cognitive and developmental challenges into the social fabric of the school. “This will be in the same viewpoint. Let’s take on, as a group, a tough social problem in Tulsa,” he said.
Clancy hopes this program will give incoming freshmen the confidence “that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines for big problems. They will instead be able to say, ‘Okay, I know that’s a big problem but I’m ready to jump in and be a part of the solution.’”
The students attracted to the new program, Clancy believes, will be no different than those already at TU. “We have purpose driven students in the first place. They’re motivated, strong, smart,” he said. According to Clancy, “that’s always a good fit for TU, a person who’s actually a good multitasker. That’s what I’ve noticed about TU students compared to other universities.” While a student might be in a hard major, Clancy said often that same student will be a Global Scholar or on Student Association Senate. His course “is meant to be a good introduction, to take advantage of what TU has to offer and to draw attention to all TU has to offer for those who are thinking about TU.”
While there are other similar courses at other universities, Clancy believes TU’s is unique, as it’s taught by the president of the school and he has a “very focused mission of getting people comfortable with very complex problems.”
All freshmen were invited to apply for the course through an essay. Clancy, who read every applicant’s essay, said they reflected that the students “were very compassionate, great kids, who are excited to take on the world’s problems.” While the original cap on the class was one hundred students, everyone who applied was sent acceptance letters; in recent meetings, some have pressured Clancy to offer the course to the entire freshmen class.
For those older students interested in the new course, Clancy says they’re welcome to apply to the few teaching assistant positions that will be available. “The pressure’s on. I can’t flop in this class,” he concluded. “I better be a good teacher, we pumped it up so much.”