Sailing into the future – some insight

I was listening to Steely Dan’s album “Aja” the other day and it inspired me to write this blog because I felt a strong connection between their songs and the journey we’re taking as a college. Bear with me as I explain. I’m often asked what genre of music I like the most and my response is always “Yacht Rock” (a broad soft rock music style originating in the late 1970s, early 1980s on the West Coast) to most people’s chagrin. Hey, judge me if you want, I’ve got thick skin. If you are not familiar with it, I understand. Yacht Rock does not currently have a SiriusXMâ station in their primary lineup and you have to dig to find a playlist on Spotifyâ. Just know that you’re missing out.

The topic of today’s blog is “insight” and I see it as the perfect opportunity to give you some insight into Yacht Rock and how it inspired me.

The music (yes, I am biased) has clean vocals, complex lyrics and catchy melodies that integrate smooth soul, smooth jazz, R&B, funk, electronic piano and some disco flare.  A few popular Yacht Rock performers include Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs (Dallas native) and Christopher Cross (some refer to him as the “father of Yacht Rock”). Some of their songs help me segue to my main topic – the journey we are taking as a college.

One of Steely Dan’s most popular ballads was “Reeling in the Years.” So, how does the song tie in to what’s happening at HPS? In my last blog (, I told you how we were in a way reeling in the years by looking back at the successes of HPS, how we are poised for the future and how we’re embarking on an important strategic planning journey together.

As Boz Scaggs sang about, here is the “Lowdown” on where we are, and I have to say, it is not anything like singing the “Deacon Blues” (Steely Dan). But, seriously, there are important insights that I have gained over the past 120 days on the job as your Dean. Insight is a bridge between the past and future, and after approximately 75 one-on-one, face-to-face meetings with faculty and staff in HPS, and doing a deep dive in the culture and values of the college, I see that we have a lot to celebrate, but I also see that there is so much more potential in this college. We need to break down silos and, like the aforementioned music styles are blended to make Yacht Rock, work together to create our own beautiful music as a college. Our diverse and unique disciplines can synergistically be integrated to better serve our students and solve real-world, applied research questions. I will continue to coach and challenge our faculty and staff and assure them that everything is “All Right” (Christopher Cross). As we collaborate, we are going to accomplish feats like never before.

In just five weeks from today, we will embark on a college-wide strategic planning process where all faculty and staff will be asked to be actively engaged and participate with great passion as we chart our path forward (yes, just like you do on a yacht). By coming together and determining what the next 3-5 years needs to look like for the college, HPS will not be just “Sailing Along” (Christopher Cross), we will be “Riding Like the Wind” (Christopher Cross).