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Mobilizing for the Future: President's Address 08-12-15

Home Fall 2015 Opening Institute

President’s Address to the Faculty and Staff (August 12, 2015)


As Dr. Clarke mentioned, my wife Irene is unable to be with us this morning, but she sends her love and is terribly excited to return to the campus in a few, short weeks.  She truly is hard at work on a number of CAU projects and is more than a little excited about all that we are going to accomplish.  I, too, am energized for what will be a transformational chapter in the University’s evolution.  This morning, I want to spend a few minutes talking about “tomorrow,” but I would like to begin with the past.

1865, the year that Atlanta University was founded, was a time of great uncertainty and a time of promise for the newly freed slaves [Slide 2].  The promise was that education would lift up the former slaves and help to transform the future.  Little did the founders know that a few years later pernicious injustice in the form of “Jim Crow” and the scourge of tenant farming would mount an existential challenge to African Americans [Slide 3]? 

Thankfully, the promise persevered over the challenges of pernicious injustice.  That’s right, the promise of Atlanta University, Clark College, and the other what are now known as HBCUs produced the leaders and built the social equity that leveraged change in this country and made it possible for us to be here today [Slide 4].  To be sure, HBCUs kept the promise and provided the social equity that we now own and in this way have contributed to the success of the United States and to the larger world.

Today, higher education and especially HBCUs, including CAU, are faced with innumerable challenges and great uncertainty.  In general, the question for institutions of higher education is who will survive and in what form?  The additional question for HBCUs is whether the promise is lost and the social equity is devalued and is to be abandoned in bankruptcy?

I stand before you in defiance to the second question and say that we must not allow the promise to slip away or be diminished and to sustain our position in the future we must mobilize to grow our social equity [Slide 5].  I say to you, concerning the first question that for us at CAU it is not about surviving in the future.  It is about the “art of the possible” and “defining the future.”

Of course we must define our aspirations for the future of CAU.  Please allow me to talk about a vision for CAU, where the University seeks to be among the leading global institutions of higher education and learning at the crossroads for IDEAS to address the challenges to social and economic progress.  By IDEAS I mean a set of positional attributes, or CAU’s educational and learning DNA [Slide 6]: 

•         Innovation and Entrepreneurship (by which we will effect transformational impact through creative and entrepreneurial thought and resulting initiatives)

•         Design and Systematic Thinking (which is the iterative, customer-focused application of creativity and logic toward the resolution of problems and issues in anticipation of an improved future result)

•         Environmental Sustainability (consistent, smart actions orchestrated to optimize the fiscal, social, and environmental conditions in which a particular activity—learning, for example--is conducted)

•         Arts, humanities, cultural dynamics, and inclusion (through which the creative impulse is explored, channeled and expressed within and among social structures)

•         Science, technology, and convergence (which constitute the intellectual and practical activities encompassing the study of behavior and structure of the natural world through methodological observation and experimentation).

As we mobilize to fulfill our vision, we remain vigilant in pursuit of our mission or purpose.  In this context we will need a set of performance perspectives or drivers that help us measure our progress in achieving our mission.  I would like for us to consider the following drivers [Slide 7]:

1.      Increasing student academic and career success

2.      Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our policies, procedures, operations, and processes

3.      Strengthening learning and growth for people and the organization

It is crucial to note that CAU will be able to make consistent progress toward our mission and vision if and only if increasing student academic and career success is the key driver of our overall efforts.  When we combine these three performance perspectives with our aspirations and the University’s four strategic planning priorities (Increase Headcount Enrollment; Distinctive Academic, Research, and Student Support Programs; Enhance External Funding Support; Sustainable Financial Business Model) we can more clearly identify the strategies, initiatives, and actions required for us to reaffirm the CAU promise and to grow the social equity and global relevancy of CAU.

A crucial aspect of Mobilizing for the Future centers on the relevancy and vibrancy of our curriculum [Slide 8].  This, of course, begins with the University’s Core Curriculum.  I applaud and am energized by our faculty’s success at revising the Core Curriculum.  Establishing a Core Curriculum that focuses on outcomes and not inputs is indeed a necessary condition, for Mobilizing the Curriculum for the Future.

The sufficiency conditions for Mobilizing the Curriculum involves three steps:

•         Improving the college readiness of our students;

•         Reframing degree programs to incorporate the revised Core Curriculum and competency based education; and

•         Planning and implementing the rollout of CAU’s revised academic framework.

These steps along with our revised Core Curriculum reflect the quality and comprehensiveness of CAU’s academic programs and the manner in which we support and strengthen those programs.  As a consequence, they represent the building blocks for the academic component of the CAU brand. 

Building the Academic Brand is the starting point for us to Mobilize for the Future.  Just like chess pieces in a chess match, we are taking our position, each player fulfilling his or her role, all roles collaborating to advance the CAU promise and to raise the social equity and the global relevancy of CAU.   

Our efforts at mobilization will involve all of CAU’s stakeholders.  Rest assured, that our approach to this important paradigm shift is not simply a top-down proposition.  This morning, you were asked to complete a four-question survey, found on Page 4 of your workbook.  This constitutes an important opportunity for you to register your individual voice in the mobilization process.  Once the responses of these surveys are aggregated, we will have a more concrete understanding of how to best order our steps.  So I encourage you to be brutally honest.  Our success depends upon your candor.

With this critical intelligence in hand, I will over the next several weeks meet with divisions, schools, departments and key units to hear what you have to say about these key drivers.  What, for example, constitutes an increase in academic or career success?  What impedes increased effectiveness and efficiency in our operating protocols?  And what are the essential, defining values of a world-class learning environment?  These are important questions, and there are more.  I want to hear from you and ponder them together. 

I remind you that, as in a chess match, ALL of the pieces must be in play to ensure victory.  So, I expect to see community members from across the campus, representing all levels within the organization in these meetings.  There are no wrong answers, but two all-important rules [Slide 9]:  1) CAU aspires to be at the global crossroads of IDEAS; and 2) we are mobilizing to sustain and elevate the CAU promise and raise the social equity and global relevance of CAU for today and for tomorrow.

Thank you, Clark Atlanta!  Let us mobilize! 

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