Dr. Karen A. Stout Shares 2019 Summer Reading List

For 20 years, Achieving the Dream President & CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout has shared her summer reading list with colleagues and students. A sample of her thoughts on her 2019 books follows.

Lessons Learned from Summer Reading

Summer is a time for many people to unwind, connect with family and friends, and recharge for the remainder of the year. For me, reading is interwoven into my ATD travel and my time with family and friends. I keep a running list of books throughout the year, and I dive into many of them once the calendar hits May. Many of these summer books are directly connected to higher education, and others lend important lessons and connections to my work.

The tradition of sharing my reading list began before my time as president of Montgomery County Community College, and I continued that at MCCC by sharing my list during fall convocation. I have the great fortune of speaking at a handful of convocations this fall, and it feels appropriate to share my list during this time. This marks the 20th anniversary of sharing my reading list, and I hope that you’ll find these books interesting and full of lessons for our shared work in higher education. Here’s a link to my 20th annual summer reading list, and few selections are listed below.


Questions Are The Answer: A Breakthrough Approach to Your Most Vexing Problems at Work and in Life by Hal Gregersen

Gregersen reminds us that in our search for successful student success strategies, we should first pause to ask the right questions, and that a significant role for leaders is to ask questions to help their leadership teams reframe the answers. He asks, “What is the grand challenge question that gets our hearts beating fast and causes us to step back and say, ‘Wow. To achieve that I’m going to have to think and act completely differently.’” I particularly love the section on using “question bursts” to solve problems.



Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

For our colleges deeply engaged in equity work, this is a must read. Dr. Eberhardt’s chapter on Higher Learning offers some important insights on the importance of “empathy, wise feedback, affirmation and high-quality” faculty-student contact in student success. Her descriptions of how speed and ambiguity are triggers of bias are compelling.








Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Epstein makes a case for why an individual’s range of skills versus deep specialization is important in today’s workforce. There are parallels to our work with community colleges in that we must develop organizational range to take on what he labels the “wicked” challenges (versus “kind” challenges) of our student success work. In a provocative chapter on tools, he forced me to ask a key question: “What tools should we drop to better serve students?”   



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