Probably the biggest event in the life of the university this year has been the Excellence Initiative, which involves seriously large sums of money. Somewhat to our surprise the pre-proposal was accepted and the final version had to be done. This came at an awkward time between the terms of the outgoing and incoming presidents. I had nothing to do with the writing, but became fairly involved with parts of the presentation, as were other deans. The proposal could not, of course, answer all the questions that might come up and it had some gaps where implementation was not clear. This was an opportunity and one of the enjoyable parts of the process was working with the other deans to decide what we could reasonably say when the evaluators asked awkward questions. My sense, and I think that of others, was that we discovered how well we could work together.
At a more local level the stresses at the Berlin School for LIS have been fun too. For years the students had been asking for a ring-lecture that included all of the professors. I opposed this for a long time on the basis of past experience, but agreed to go ahead with an experiment this year just to see. So far it has met all of my expectations for being a disaster, especially for the students, whose eyes seemed glazed even during the last two sessions when some of our best teachers were talking. What we have gained, though, is more of a common sense of what skills our students need to write research-quality masters theses, and statistics is a significant part of that.
Yes, statistics. Not how to do a t-test or an ANOVA, but how to understand some of the basics like what a population is, why sampling needs to be done with care, and how to think about values that are outliers. Before the students can do statistics, they need to be able to read them, ask questions about the data, and know what the results mean. In the last several sessions of the semester we are going to shift the focus, and it it works, we will do more next year.
Our students are actually fairly impressive. Even as masters students a number of them publish in peer-reviewed journals. We face a re-accreditation visit in the summer, and one of our students has taken the lead in writing the description that we must turn in. The students don't just sit on committees as representatives, they help run the place. We could not manage without them and I see that as something to be proud of.
Of course I wish that I had more time to go to concerts, which are abundant in Berlin, or to theater or museums. I can even imagine reading and sleeping more. But looking back at the year, I can't say that I regret my choices. I had fun and I hope others did too.
 Batuman, Elif, 19 Dec 2011, "The Sanctuary: the world's oldest temple and the dawn of civilization", p. 82.