Academic Ceremonies - December Celebration
Remarks: Jane E. Knodell,
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President
Good morning and congratulations to our December 2009 graduates.
Today is a time when it makes sense to step back and consider our mission at the University of Vermont. For you as graduates and for the faculty members that have taught and guided you, it is an apt time to reflect on the meaning of a UVM education as captured by our mission statement.
Don’t fear. Our mission is contained in a single sentence, perhaps something to do with a Yankee sensibility. Vermont is, after all, the home state of President Calvin Coolidge, who among his famous bits of taciturn wisdom once said, “You can’t know too much, but you can say too much.”
So, in 45 words, with a brevity that might please even Silent Cal, I share with you the mission of the University of Vermont:
“To create, evaluate, share, and apply knowledge and to prepare students to be accountable leaders who will bring to their work dedication to the global community, a grasp of complexity, effective problem-solving and communication skills, and an enduring commitment to learning and ethical conduct.”
I’d like to focus on several ideas in that densely packed statement — “a grasp of complexity” and “accountable leaders.”
The 21st century does not suffer from a shortage of complexity. It is both the great beauty and great challenge of our time. Environmental issues are coupled with economic ones. World peace and world hunger are intertwined. Public health policy blurs lines with the ethics of social justice. All of our most vexing issues and all of our greatest opportunities for progress will require this “grasp of complexity,” this ability to evaluate information and ideas, people and problems, from a multitude of perspectives, and to emerge from the labyrinth with the comprehension and conviction necessary to forge real solutions.
“To be accountable leaders” — that is our hope for all of you. Leaders are everywhere, of course; they are not only presidents, CEO’s, and executive directors. They are teachers, nurses, head coaches, mothers and fathers, volunteers in community organizations, and so many other essential roles. Accountable leaders aren’t perfect ones. Meaningful progress is impossible if you strive for perfection, but as a leader, you must be prepared to be held accountable for the dozens of complex decisions that you will make on a daily basis. So you must make your decisions with knowledge and compassion. You must have the courage to stand by your decisions and the humility to admit when you have made a mistake.
As I look across this audience of graduates, I am confident that we have, in fact, achieved our mission. Your presence at this ceremony is a marker of your personal accomplishment and our progress as an institution, and I am both humbled and inspired by the collective potential in this room. You have been well-prepared to make a significant and lasting mark on the world.
Personally and on behalf of my faculty colleagues at the University of Vermont, I wish you well.
Last modified December 22 2009 08:56 AM