Welcome Event for Dickinson's 28th President
On Nov. 1, 2012, the Dickinson community gathered to welcome Dr. Nancy A. Roseman as the college's 28th president.
Watch a video or read the transcript of the remarks for Dr. Roseman, delivered at the welcome event in ATS Auditorium.
Dr. Roseman's Speech
It is a deeply humbling experience to stand before you today as the 28th president of Dickinson College. And of course, made more poignant by being the first woman president for the college that was first in America. I am humbled, but I am also inspired by the energy and sense of promise that pervades this community. To me, that is what Dickinson represents, what is possible when a community comes together with a common purpose: to sustain and nourish a great educational institution.
From the beginning, I was inspired by Dickinson because of its extraordinarily progressive model of the liberal arts. I recognized an institution with values and priorities that mirrored my own. I was struck immediately by the power behind Dickinson's philosophy of a "useful" education, celebrating practical experience but firmly maintaining a liberal-arts core. Well over 200 years ago, Benjamin Rush had the wisdom to establish an educational institution dedicated to producing engaged citizens for a new democracy.
Today, Dickinson produces citizens for a rapidly changing and interdependent world. A 21st-century version of a useful citizen must be intellectually nimble and able to negotiate a world full of uncertainty. They must be able to mine truth from the barrage of information being delivered to them by ever changing technology, and must be at ease with, and sophisticated about, cultural difference. In fact, we cannot begin to anticipate what our graduates will be confronted with in the future. That is why Dickinson's distinctive approach to the liberal arts is so powerful, because it is so relevant.
A liberal education is often touted as developing particular skills, such as critical thinking and intellectual flexibility. Dickinson's distinctive approach to the liberal arts is uniquely well suited to those educational goals. However, I firmly believe that the most potent and profound characteristic we can instill in our students is that of taking responsibility for their own education. At Dickinson, we allow our students to guide themselves through this extraordinary curriculum; we cause them to be masters of their own intellectual trajectory. As educators, we have a duty to ensure that our students are not passive, but are fully engaged participants in all that Dickinson has to offer.
This educational process must happen in an environment that demands much from our students. Residential liberal-arts colleges have an obligation to create an environment that is challenging inside and outside the classroom. If we fail in that, we fail to take full advantage of the very nature of a residential college. Our community of scholars, students and staff must be a fully inclusive community that reflects the changing demographics of our society and embraces diversity in its myriad of forms. Otherwise, we fail in our mission to provide the best educational experience possible for our students.
I recognize that every college campus is a complex social ecosystem, with faculty, students and staff, brought together in this little hothouse of a residential college. I know it will take me some time to understand this ecosystem, but I so look forward to the process, to becoming part of this community and taking advantage of the things that are so important to a sense of place. I look forward to the events, the traditions that bring a community together, that define it. I can't wait to attend faculty lectures, student art openings, go to the farmers market, support the social-service projects of our Greek community, hear student presentations of their research, watch a musical, go to a debate. I can't wait to cheer for our Red Devils, but I warn you that I may need a minder. I don't behave well when referees are making bad calls on my students, and-I have to be honest-it can get ugly. My basketball friends used to say that I was a power forward in a point guard body. Not always a good thing for one's personal safety.
Dickinson is a precious institution to all of us in this room. For some of you, it is precious because it is your alma mater or will be. For others, it is a valued and good employer. For the town of Carlisle and our distinguished institutional neighbors, it is part of the vital fabric of the region. I look forward to continuing to work with the broader community as a creative and willing partner. In particular, I look forward to working with our friends at the U.S. Army War College, the Penn State Dickinson School of Law and the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, so we can continue to build academic programs that are so beneficial to all our institutions.
However, the most important characteristics of Dickinson that make it a precious institution are those that contribute to a social good.
In the landscape of higher education, Dickinson is one of a small handful of outstanding residential liberal-arts colleges in this country. Take a moment to reflect on the fact that out of all college graduates, approximately 3 percent graduate from a residential liberal-arts college-3 percent. Being one of those 3 percent myself, my life is incalculably richer as a result. But it underscores how precious and rare this college is. It provides a social good by producing useful, engaged, productive and thoughtful citizens. Given the political season we are about to finally end, given the challenges we face as a global society, Benjamin Rush's vision that gave us this uniquely Dickinsonian approach to the liberal arts is more important, more relevant than ever.
Dickinson provides a social good by being an engine of social mobility through financial-aid policies that invest in all of our futures by providing access to students from families that could not otherwise conceive of sending their children to a residential liberal-arts college. The truth is that Dickinson invests in all of its students by subsidizing the true cost of their education. No one pays the real sticker price for college. We invest in all of you, and therein lies your future responsibility to be generous to this college.
Very generous, because as we all know, economic realities are placing tremendous pressure on the ability of all but the wealthiest educational institutions to keep that engine of social mobility running. Even schools with significant endowments are revising their financial-aid policies, with many becoming less need blind and more need aware. While we all recognize that Dickinson's business model is simply not sustainable, this is not an issue solely for Dickinson-it is one that higher education as an industry must attack head on. If education at our precious liberal-arts colleges becomes a luxury item, then we have truly failed. This is one of the major challenges of our time, and we will confront it as a leader in higher education.
Going forward, we acknowledge the fact that Dickinson has been performing above its resources, that we have entered, and must remain, in a competitive sphere with institutions with significantly larger endowments. I have been entrusted with the goal of increasing our resources so that Dickinson can achieve all it aspires to be. To succeed, we must identify new sources of revenue, be smart about our use of technology and continue to develop strategic partnerships with institutions near and far. We will need to look for philanthropic sources outside of the Dickinson family. We will need to identify people and organizations where, what we care about, they care about. For example, I am confident that our sustainability initiatives will resonate with philanthropic sources outside of Dickinson; the issues surrounding global climate change and sustainability are paramount for so many. This is not the time to hesitate to knock on doors and make our case, and that for me will be a pleasure, because I have such a great story to tell, a great product to sell.
You, as a community, rightfully take such pride in all you have accomplished under President Durden's leadership. I have to tell you that after my appointment as your next president was announced on Dickinson's Web page, my inbox exploded with colleagues, friends, relatives, all telling me about their connections to Dickinson and what a great school it is. Many said they had visited with their children and loved it. In fact, I've discovered I have a cousin here (don't worry, I won't out you) and another cousin who wants to come here. High-school students, and their parents, have Dickinson on their radar. I know; I've overheard conversations at the coffee shop in Williamstown, where people are talking about Dickinson. I am determined to keep promoting our brand, our distinctive approach to the liberal arts. Dickinson's reputation as an excellent liberal-arts college is spreading rapidly, and I am committed to its continuing growth.
Finally, I would like us, as a community, to thank the search-committee members for the work they did on behalf of Dickinson. You should all know that their message to me as a candidate was straightforward and clear: "We aspire to be great." I have no doubt that Dickinson can reach its aspirations. The strength of this community lies in its shared purpose, its optimism and willingness to try new ideas. That strength is going to be called upon as we join together to continue the work all of you have done under President Durden's extraordinary leadership, to strive for excellence in providing the best educational experience possible for our students.