I recently accepted an invitation from the White House for a meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other senior White House advisors to discuss issues on higher education relative to assess, affordability, student success and accountability. This invitation was extended to several presidents across the United States with similar institutional traits such as high Pell grant recipients and student enrollment under 5,000. The background for this meeting is based on President Obama’s education blueprint: educating our way to an economy build to last, higher education access and success, reforming K-12 education to prepare all students for college and career, and investing in our students and in the future. We all accepted President Obama’s call that all Americans commit to at least one year of higher education or career training, and we also accepted the challenge to do what is necessary for America to once again have the highest share of college graduates in the world by 2020. It is important for WAU to be at the table and actively participate in such discussions. One primary reason is that our student’s dependence on federal and state financial aid funds. Many of our students cannot afford private higher education and these federal funds play a major role in funding their preparation for a lifelong career. Our university is sensitive to these issues and that is the reason for WAU’s Vision 2020.
Vision 2020 is a continuation of the strategic planning process to create a culture of excellence at Washington Adventist University. Based on various assessments that were conducted at various times throughout the past four years such as graduate surveys, employee satisfaction surveys, learning outcomes and Middle States self-study, we now have the data that will guide us to develop action plans that will transform us into a thriving university that is continuously fulfilling the vision of producing graduates that demonstrate competence and moral leadership to their communities. We will continue to develop game changing actions, under the six institutional pillars of excellence: quality, people, finance, growth service, and community.
This is Washington Adventist University.
In 2008 when I accepted the challenge to provide the leadership of the then Columbia Union College, some individuals offered their congratulations while others said they were not certain if they should offer condolences. Four and half years later, I can testify that when we establish a committed partnership with the Lord, success is guaranteed. Columbia Union College is now Washington Adventist University; we experienced this year the largest enrollment ever and on April 14, we dedicated the first new building on campus in forty years – The Leroy and Lois Peters Music Center.
The success we are experiencing is clearly due to the partnership with Jesus and a talented committed team of leaders, faculty and staff. I want to use this medium to give thanks to the Almighty and to the dedicated board of trustees, faculty and staff for their commitment to the mission of Washington Adventist University.
In the book Prophets and Kings, 486, Ellen White writes: “True success in any line of work is not the result of chance or accident or destiny. It is the outworking of God’s providences, the reward of faith and discretion, of virtue and perseverance. Fine mental qualities and a high moral tone are not the result of accident. God gives opportunities; success depends upon the use made of them.”
And, in the introduction to his book Leadership Prayers, Richard Kriegbaum speaks of a leader’s relationship to God: “Leaders do not pray to inform God of what is happening. He already knows. And they do not pray to get him to do what they want. He already wants what is best for everyone involved.” According to 1 Peter 5:7, God wants our worries and cares. So, as we close out another academic year, our prayer of thanksgiving is: Thank you God for blessing us with talented individuals and for your desire to accept the worries and challenges of WAU. God grant us humility and the tendency to put you in the spotlight on the journey toward institutional excellence. Help us God to keep in daily focus the needs of our students. We recognize you as the Master Teacher and we give to you the honor and glory, Amen.
This is Washington Adventist University!
University and College campuses look different than they did 10 years ago. Students carry laptops, iPods, iPads, smart phones; they expect wireless connections; they communicate globally; and they are older and often attend classes from the comfort of their dorm room. Professors are changing their teaching techniques in order to keep up with expectations and the variations of content delivery, often putting podcast of seminars online and using recorded voice instructions to help students complete assignments.
Among all these changes, there is still a strong argument for the distinguishing features of American higher education rooted in the liberal arts. The liberal arts are sometimes viewed with scepticism by students, parents and other observers who think that professional preparation and workforce development are the more important an pragmatic purposes of higher education. Nannerl Keohane, who presently serves as Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Center for Human Values at Princeton University, recently mentioned in a presentation at the Council of Independent Colleges’ 2012 Presidents Institute, that: “The American liberal arts college model is now gaining favor in other parts of the world where a strong case is being made for the central role of the liberal arts as the best way to develop critical and integrative thinkers, productive and creative employees, committed and compassionate citizens, and happy and healthy human beings.”
Higher education today is not just a simple matter of teaching students business and health care skills. Employers are now expecting their workforce to solve problems, demonstrate human understanding and an ability to relate to people. These expectations are just as valued in the workplace as the ability to do the job. The University of California Berkeley describes the impact of a liberal education this way: “To be liberally educated is to be transformed. A liberal arts education frees your mind and helps you connect dots you never noticed before, so you can put your own field of study into a broader context. It enables you to form opinions and judgments, rather than defer to an outside authority.” From Albert Einstein came the view that, "The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks."
At Washington Adventist University, we are committed to the aim of true education identified in Education, by Ellen White, as “the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”
This is Washington Adventist University!