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President Hurwitz Admonishes the Campus Community

In front of a packed field house, Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz today delivered his first presentation to the campus community for the 2011-2012 academic year entitled “Shared Dreams of What We Can Become.” In his remarks, Hurwitz spoke separately to students, faculty, and staff on topics ranging from finding the inner motivation within each of us, to how the campus community can collectively advance innovation and change to ensure Gallaudet’s future.

First, Hurwitz shared a dream for student achievement. He recalled a quote by George Bernard Shaw and more popularly associated with the late Robert F. Kennedy, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream of things that never were and say why not.” He reinforced this message by stating that however students describe themselves, have been labeled by others, or envision their future, they have a home here at Gallaudet and are welcome here. In other words, through acceptance we can all achieve our dreams and aspire to the “why not?”

Second, Hurwitz shared a dream for faculty achievement stating that the university’s liberal arts education must “continue to attract the best and brightest faculty…to attain a research level that attracts scholars from around the world.” He also stated that the university is in the early stages of work with the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area on development of joint programs in curriculum areas not offered at Gallaudet.

He then shared a dream of offering pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-MBA, and architecture majors. Hurwitz indicated these pre-graduate programs could be developed from many existing course offerings and these academic tracks have the potential of transforming the university. By establishing these programs, Hurwitz shared a dream and a vision to give “wings to future generations of deaf and hard of hearing students…the gift of self-confidence to see themselves succeed in these great professions.”

Third, Hurwitz shared a dream for faculty and staff in terms of the campus master plan to advance the university. The campus master plan for 2012-2022 is currently under development and an interview process to gain stakeholder feedback from the campus community, the surrounding community, District officials and the nation’s leading city planners and architects will begin next week. Hurwitz envisions a university “where the city residents and students intermingle freely and enrich one another with their diversity and their support for each other’s dreams.”

Hurwitz rounded out his remarks with a discussion about change and innovation, particularly during a time of economic uncertainty. He quoted Gallaudet University Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Benjamin Soukup who recently stated in a campus-wide message that “Even in these tough economic times of uncertainty we still expect the university to undertake great new and exciting things, for it is only through those that we can ensure our future.”

In other words, change and innovation are at times uncertain and also require rededication of resources. To help put this into context, Hurwitz talked about sustainable innovation, or the innovations we do as part of our day-to-day activities, and transformative innovation, the introduction of completely new and unexpected paradigms.

As an example of sustainable innovation, Hurwitz pointed to the actions as set forth in the PPTF, APSRC and the Gallaudet Strategic Plan as influencing our day-to-day decision-making. In terms of transformative innovation Hurwitz noted that it “requires the genius of our entire community…is essential to the survival of our university…[and] will allow us to create new paradigms for the university.” He noted the development of the Innovation Reporting Team (IRT) report as encompassing both sustainable and transformative innovation. Completed over the summer, the IRT report will be distributed to the campus community in the near future.

Hurwitz noted that the emphasis on innovation would continue and the “time for ideas will never be over.” He said that the “challenge is not to watch change, but to lead it” and encouraged each person within the campus community to share in that dream.

Throughout his remarks, Hurwitz shared a dream of having all those who visit campus to walk away with the inspiration to share the Gallaudet experience with others by saying “let me tell you about a conversation I had at Gallaudet,” meaning that this is a place that should be talked about, that we should spread the word about all the new innovation that happens here and all that this community has to offer.

He concluded with an appeal to the campus community to share with friends and colleagues, “Let me tell you about a conversation I had today at Gallaudet about shared dreams of what we can become.” He challenged the campus community to “carry forth this discussion long after this speech is finished so we can join together in the process of imagining, creating, and ensuring the future at Gallaudet.”

Hurwitz closed with another quote form the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, “The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity by those willing to commit their minds … to the task.”

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