Danny J. Anderson was selected by Trinity University's Board of Trustees as the college's 19th president. Image courtesy of Trinity University Communications.
Danny J. Anderson was selected by Trinity University's Board of Trustees as the college's 19th president. Image courtesy of Trinity University Communications.

Danny J. Anderson kicked off his first visit to Trinity University as its president marching with students in Monday’s MLK March. He spent the rest of the day looking around the campus with eyes to the future.

Anderson has ideas brewing, and as he makes his monthly visits throughout the spring semester prior to his summer arrival, he will work with campus leadership to hone the vision for his presidency. As the man tasked with its implementation, Anderson also will spend a lot of time with the strategic plan, Trinity Tomorrow, which lays a path for the university’s next 10 years.

In a December press release announcing his selection, Anderson said the following:

“It is an exciting opportunity to lead Trinity University during this transformational period. I will work to ensure Trinity is recognized as the model of 21st century liberal arts education. Through the discovery that occurs in the Trinity experience, students grow and become the kind of leaders our world needs today.”

So what does he envision as the model of a 21st century liberal arts education? What does our world need from its leaders?

For now, he sees a lot of that potential in Trinity’s strengths. Most specifically, the interdisciplinary emphasis and connection to international experiences.

“The problems in our world are complex, they need individuals who are able to think critically,” said Anderson.

He sees the liberal arts education as the best means of training these future leaders. By connecting seemingly unrelated fields of study, students deepen their education and enhance their capacity as leaders in the professional world. A scientist with excellent communication skills is more likely to have his research funded. An engineer who knows how to engage current events can make things that improve our lives. 

The Trinity University tower is so closely associated with the institution that it is incorporated into its logo.

Every field benefits from the ability to see the historical, philosophical, and psychological forces that drive consumers and policy makers. Students whose coursework includes a hearty portion of the humanities will be able to make those connections.

Anderson draws on his own experience to validate this claim. His background in Mexican Literature enhances his management practice as he decodes symbols and analyzes themes.

“A liberal arts and social science background helps you be aware of those many layers,” said Anderson.

He is quick to explain that while his degreed background may be in literature, it includes economics and chemistry and other disciplines that allow him to speak across disciplines as he leads the university.

The Center’s exterior, lit up against the evening. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.
Trinity University’s Center for the Sciences and Innovation exterior, lit up against the evening. Photo by Robert Benson Photography.

Experiential learning is another key to the interdisciplinary strengths of Trinity. Anderson wants to continue to build the already robust study abroad program. He wants students to go the source of their studies, as well as to the frontiers.

At home, Anderson wants to encourage service learning, internships, and practicums not only for lab students in the sciences, but for those focusing on the humanities as well.

Anderson also brings a public sensibility that will help keep Trinity competitive and current. He comes from the University of Kansas, where he is currently the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. While public schools are accountable to taxpayers to meet the growing social expectations of accessibility and diversity, Anderson believes that the standard should extend to all institutions of higher learning.

“Higher education has always evolved to respond to our country,” said Anderson.

While Anderson doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into his Mexican Literature credentials, he is always happy to make reading recommendations for those who are curious. He could curate a longer list, but here are Danny J. Anderson’s current top picks for must-read Mexican Literature:

Juan Rulfo, “Pedro Páramo,” 1955. It’s the story of a man who goes home to reconcile with his father after the death of his mother. Instead of the town where he grew up, he finds a literal ghost town. And a lot of ghosts. Anderson wrote an introduction for this book published by Universtity of Texas Press.

Elena Poniatowska, “Hasta No Verte Jesus Mia,” 1969. Anderson claims that anyone reading Mexican literature should include one book about the Mexican revolution. This is his pick.

Jorge Volpi, “No Sera la Tierra,” 2006. This book by a young author connects Mexico to the globalized world through a series of interconnecting female characters.

To prepare for his trip to San Antonio, Anderson felt it would be good to read a book about the city as well, so he picked up Enrique Berruga’s “Propiedad Ajena,” about the family who loses their ancestral land in the political upheaval between Texas and Mexico.

It’s clear that Anderson is both a true scholar and a collaborative leader. As he settles in over the next year, he has the potential to be a great asset not only to Trinity, but to the intellectual landscape of our city.

*Featured/top image: Danny J. Anderson was selected by Trinity University’s Board of Trustees as the college’s 19th president. Image courtesy of Trinity University Communications.

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Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.