As I meet with alumni and friends of Susquehanna University, we have focused on four themes:
1. Citizen Leadership
The residential liberal-arts college is a uniquely American form of higher education. Ours is a nation born of intellectual idealism, and the Founding Fathers helped sponsor these colleges to prepare citizen leaders to foster the new republic. At a recent alumni event at the Franklin Institute, I shared this quote from Benjamin Franklin’s outline of the content of the educational experience he hoped the students at the University of Pennsylvania would receive.
The Idea of what is true Merit, should also be often presented to Youth, explain'd and impress'd on their Minds, as consisting in an Inclination join'd with an Ability to serve Mankind, one's Country, Friends and Family; which Ability is (with the Blessing of God) to be acquir'd or greatly encreas'd by true Learning; and should indeed be the great Aim and End of all Learning.
Against the current backdrop of competing rhetoric about the role of higher education in American society, this is an ideal time for us to recapture Franklin’s message and its myriad implications.
2. Global Citizenship
We live in a dynamic global society. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in Letter from Birmingham Jail, “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
How can we be effective global citizens? We must engage each other and learn to appreciate the credo of Terence when he wrote, “Homo sum, humani a me nihil alienum puto — I am human, I consider nothing that is human to be alien to me.” A truly cosmopolitan person is one who has developed the capacity to recognize and celebrate the humanity in others. Through the GO program and throughout our curriculum, we strive to foster a sincere appreciation for the true richness of human diversity.
One of our most important aspirations is to make a Susquehanna education attainable for all deserving students and to provide those students access to the most enriching opportunities we can. As we cultivate philanthropic support for the University, the ability of meritorious students to graduate and to be able to engage in truly transformative experiences on and off campus must continue to be our top priority.
Universities have many constituencies: students, faculty, parents, alumni, trustees, neighboring community members, etc. Dr. King’s “network of mutuality” applies to them as well. Each group has a different relationship with the university, but all groups benefit from the enhanced engagement of the others in support the work of the institution. We will continue to enhance our shared understanding of the ways in which the collective Susquehanna community can be strengthened by elevating each group’s participation in the life of the university and connection with each other.
Future postings will provide more detailed thoughts on each of these foci.