President Roberta J. Cordano gave her State of the University address on January 31, 2017, emphasizing the shared, collective contributions of the Gallaudet community by saying “our presidency is strong.” The address, held at Elstad Auditorium, was also webcast via live stream.

Cordano’s address focused on six priorities: a bilingual framework; campus climate in regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion; institutional leadership and planning; student success; academic vitality and strategic positioning; and strengthening and diversifying revenue streams.

Early in her speech, Cordano attended to student success and academic vitality, distinguishing between a student’s time at Gallaudet and the need to instill a sense of lifelong learning.

“It is important to always remember that our goal is to create innovators, changemakers, and leaders. That has always been part of Gallaudet’s legacy since its inception, and it continues to be our mission….There is no place like Gallaudet, and no place that generates the kind of people that we do here.”

Cordano next spoke of enrollment, retention, and graduation, congratulating community efforts in the increased number of students enrolled this year, the largest class of the 21st century.
“This demonstrates that we are getting our story out and demonstrating our value as a university.”
Using an anecdote of how the social structure of a horse herd is affected when one is separated, Cordano expressed the importance of student retention at Gallaudet.

“When someone is taken away or leaves our community, when we lose one single, solitary person, we change in a way that is not positive,” said Cordano. “We lose a part of ourselves as a community. For this reason, we must seek every single person as a valued member of our learning community, and we must work toward the goal of keeping our learning community united, and tight, and contained, so that each person’s perspectives and experiences, and the wisdom that they bring, the knowledge that they carry, the heritage from their lifelong journey that they traveled to get here, remains with us.”

Cordano continued by introducing the GSR Review Self-Study team, to be co-chaired by Dr. Leslie Rach, G-’91, General Studies Program director, and Dr. Lindsay Buchko, Institutional Research director, and the 6th Street Steering Committee, co-chaired by Provost Dr. Carol Erting, and Paul Kelly, Administration and Finance vice president. The GSR review team will conduct a one-year study to prepare the GSR program for 21st-century instruction.

The steering committee will oversee the program development of a cultural and creative corridor at the corner of 6th Street and Florida Avenue, expected to serve Washington, D.C. as well as Gallaudet.
“We are now working with the design team and the steering committee to come up with a design that will create possibilities to showcase to the world who we are, where we can reach out to the world and the world, in turn, can meet Gallaudet.”

The Lyceum, located on the third floor of College Hall above the Office of the President, will be set up to show the planning for the 6th Street Development Project, allowing the Gallaudet community to learn of the design progress and to provide input.

“It will be like an incubator, where ideas can be shared,” said Cordano.
Cordano next talked about the importance of citizenship, explaining how citizenship keeps a community united, providing a sense of belonging, especially for Gallaudet’s international students.
“Citizenship is vital, not just as a member of the Gallaudet community, but in our city, here in Washington, D.C., our nation, and in the world. We must prepare our students, our learners, to be citizens of the world.”

During this segment, Cordano announced that Gallaudet Hill Day will occur sometime in April, a chance for the Gallaudet community to visit Congress. “We want to communicate to the individuals on the Hill how important Gallaudet is and the value we give to the world.”
A kick-off event about Gallaudet Hill Day will be held with the campus community on Tuesday, February 7.

From here, Cordano transitioned into community building and talked about the need for community members to embrace diversity and to be curious and learn from one another. Cordano passionately stressed that Gallaudet is a welcoming community, regardless of cultural or religious (or nonreligious) backgrounds, types of disabilities, signing background, gender, and political beliefs.
“All are welcomed-welcoming environments are created through relationships when we come together and learn from one another, with compassion,” said Cordano.

Cordano referred to the “It’s on Us” campaign against sexual assault and violence, and student inquiries about Title IX, as an example of citizenship and community building. Referring to a recent case that prompted much inquiry from students, Cordano reflected on how students were able to promote dialogue leading to community healing while also recognizing the legalities surrounding Title IX.
Next, Cordano talked about the Diversity Strategy Team, created last spring, and showed a list of current members serving since the beginning of the fall semester. To re-establish the team, Cordano explained that each of the governing bodies on campus would nominate individuals able to serve an 18-month term.

“Their role is to advise me, the provost, and the future CDO (chief diversity officer), as well as the Executive Team, on issues of diversity, strategy, and thinking on how we can improve the work that we are doing in this area,” said Cordano.

Regarding the search for a new CDO, Cordano introduced Dr. Gaurav Mathur, Graduate School and Continuing Studies dean, and Heather Harker, Office of the President chief of staff, as co-chairs for the relaunch of the search, which she hopes will end in the spring and a CDO in place by the fall. She followed by encouraging the Gallaudet community to focus on accessibility by fixing or reporting areas of need. “It’s everyone’s right to be an equal citizen, and to participate equally in our lives here in this community,” said Cordano.

In what she called one of her hallmarks, Cordano commented on the Bilingual Task Force, co-chaired by Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, ’76, Counseling professor, and Dr. Kristin Mulrooney, G-’00 & PhD ’06, Linguistics associate professor.

“We have created a group to ensure that we will come together and understand a framework of what it is that we value, and the principles and practices that are crucial in order for us to be successful in being indeed, a truly bilingual University, from birth to lifelong learning.”

As mentioned with other initiatives, Cordano stressed the importance of community sharing to help the task force. She also ensured that focus will be given to the many signed, spoken, and written languages used at Gallaudet. “Bilingualism is about including all of those languages within our University.”
Tying back to her introduction, Cordano focused on the strength of Gallaudet, thanking the Gallaudet community for their work and dedication.

“We are stronger because of your commitment to learning. We are strong, because we are all learning, and we model learning everyday.”

Known for her interactive style, Cordano closed her address by having those in attendance discuss core values and holding a question and answer session.
To view the webcast in its entirety, go to

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