Symposium on Inclusive Excellence Remarks
by President Lewis E. Thayne,
January 20, 2014
Good afternoon. What an excellent and memorable day we have had together.
Thank you especially to Dean Michael Green and Dean Greg Krikorian and their staffs (Venus Ricks, Todd Snovel, and Jen Evans) and to every faculty member and person who contributed time and effort to the making of this day. You have shown us in one day what a learning community can do, what a college of inclusive excellence can stand for.
My hope is that, like me, all of you present found in this day a new accumulation of those small bits of understanding that, over time, can truly change a person and eventually change a community for the better.
Thank you to the students who came into my office and spoke from their hearts and with their courage. You did not ask for this day, but this day is our shared statement on what we aspire to and how we want to be measured at Lebanon Valley College.
None of us created the problems of our society. All of those problems have many dimensions and nuances to them. It is often the small, personal victories over these problems that sometimes mean the most; and it is the subtle incivilities that sometimes hurt the most. We may not agree on what the problems are or which solutions might be the most effective. We can all agree, however, that we are each responsible for our own lives; and we live them, as they say, in the shadow of our neighbors. Although there is greatness in each and every one of us, we are stronger when we work together. In the deepest and most idealistic part of us, we all want a society and a world that is just, prosperous, and at peace.
In practical terms, however, having everyone in agreement on the issues of society and on campus is not the point and in some ways misses the point. Without the ability to listen to one another and to express our perspectives cogently, we cannot even begin to be a community. Building a sustained and healthy communication around these issues is critical to our future as a college. Inclusive excellence is not about just going along. It is about creating a setting where everyone achieves his or her highest potential. That is the goal…everyone achieving his or her highest potential.
The history of this College is one where students have shaped their experience and in doing so have shaped our history itself. They have never done so in comfort, without individual struggle, and without the respect and collaboration and creativity of our faculty. It is essential to this College and to our democracy that we should remain “unfinished.” It is in the American character to want dynamism and dialogue, to love industry, hard work, and competition. With all of that, we are absolutely at our best when we work together and when we find common ground…and as I have said, when we find a common ceiling - our highest shared goals.
We are all here to learn from each other, and in the broadest sense to help each other. As time goes on and our commitment to understanding grows, I am certain that there will be an acceleration of this sense of learning from each other, that we will see this commitment even more clearly as an essential benefit of being a residential learning community.
The future prospects are brightest for those who are educated and who can collaborate effectively, who can embrace change, and who can engage with a diverse workforce. Is this not part of our work and our mission at LVC, that is, to prepare graduates who can live in a globalized world and compete in a global economy?
My charge to the community is to take the lessons of today and weave them into the daily life of the College in ways that can be sustained and, yes, assessed. There are good examples for us to follow. Others have done this and we can do this in our own way. Inclusive excellence is not the work of a day; it is an ongoing effort to build excellence and inclusion into everything we do. For the faculty to build it into the curriculum and individual courses. For student government and others to facilitate dialogues among groups. For coaches and staff members to seize the opportunities of the programs and offices they oversee to contribute actively to an ongoing engagement with diversity.
In the coming weeks, we will develop a set of learning and institutional outcomes for diversity efforts on campus and then work back from the outcomes we seek to the programs and initiatives needed to achieve them. Time is on our side as long as we keep going. We will have a website where you can follow the strengthening of inclusive excellence in our community. You will be invited to contribute to the development of inclusive excellence in a variety of ways...via social media, town meetings, and in other ways.
Let me end by saying this: To all our students, I am so proud of you and there is not one of you who does not contribute greatly to Lebanon Valley College. To those students who may feel that they are in struggle, either because of personal circumstances or social stereotypes: although you are struggling now, you are not alone; and it will get better. To every student, every one of you - we want you here, you belong here, we believe in you, and we will do everything we can to help you succeed at Lebanon Valley College.
Thank you all and good afternoon.