Joanne Berger-Sweeney’s Research Provides an Exemplary Model for Undergraduates at Trinity College


Nathaniel Thiemann


Leading by example sets a precedent for what is expected, and promotes solidarity by showing that even the person in charge is conducting themselves by that standard. However, in today’s world it is all too common for a person in a position of leadership to take a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. While this mentality may make sense in some unique instances, it is often better for leaders to lead by example. A leader who sets and meets their own standards effectively establishes what is expected, and demonstrates that the person with the greatest responsibility is capable of meeting these expectations. Joanne Berger-Sweeney’s talk last week at the Trinity College Common Hour exemplified what it means to be a person who leads by example.

One of the goals of any academic institution is to further people’s understanding of various subjects. In her talk last week, Berger-Sweeney showed how she expanded our understanding of autism before she ever stepped into her current administrative role. Berger-Sweeney’s contribution was to the scientific community’s understanding of Rett syndrome, a regressive form of autism spectrum disorder, which only affects girls. When listening to Berger-Sweeney talk, her passion for the research and its implications was unmistakable. The president of Trinity College’s passion is one such example of a quality that she is looking for out of the college’s community, that she clearly embodies herself.

One other quality which Berger-Sweeney exemplified during her brief talk was logic, which she exemplified in several ways. From her informed selection of what animal model to use, to her attempts to treat Rett syndrome Berger-Sweeney always showcased critical thinking of a holistic nature. Young scientists at the school can learn a lot from her implementation of the scientific method. She effectively determined a problem, researched it, experimented, and then tested possible solutions.

More examples of good leadership can be found, buried with in Berger-Sweeney’s talk and her history. She embedded advice for her young listeners into her talk, turned down cash incentives that introduced bias to her research, and demonstrated dedication to a task. While her work may be just a small addition to our understanding of autism, her exemplary behavior is a huge addition to her status as a leader.

2 thoughts on “Joanne Berger-Sweeney’s Research Provides an Exemplary Model for Undergraduates at Trinity College

  1. I’m sorry that I cannot write a personal note to Joanne Berger-Sweeney. I am a female neuroscientist – one of a very few women who got her PhD in neurophysiology in 1965, and subsequently went into academic administration as Dean of the Graduate School, first at Hahnemann University and then at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. The only reason I didn’t go to the first meeting of the Society for Neuroscience was because I was in labor. I heard President Berger Sweeney’s remarks on the PBS news hour (which I have been listening to for at least 35 years) and was very supportive of everything she said. I congratulate her and wish her success in all her endeavors.

    Susan Schwartz-Giblin

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