Undergraduate Academic Affairs
December 17, 2010
Dear UAA Colleagues,
Is the University of Washington prepared to educate the next generation of leaders? This question was posed by former Starbuck’s executive Howard Behar in recent meetings I’ve had with him about leadership. He sees that the UW has the opportunity to be the most recognized and respected institution on preparing students to be thoughtful leaders.
With regard to leadership, Behar talks about a “from me to we” concept—the importance of understanding one’s self and one’s capacity as a first step in being able to engage and be innovative leaders locally and globally.
Developing the next generation of leaders—part of the work we, as an institution, are charged to do—is about the formation of individuals so they can contribute to the formation of communities, even the formation of democracies. This work is interdisciplinary if not trans-disciplinary. There are three legs to this stool:
- Creating access to higher education
- Enabling rich and engaging intellectual and emotional experiences
- Inspiring meaningful work or “vocation”
UW students are diverse in their backgrounds, interests, and pursuits. What they have in common is their capacity to lead. Students entering the UW as a result of the Dream Project, the incoming class from the Ida B. Wells High School, undergraduates selected for Fulbright fellowships, Honors students, and the 4,000 students who formed the giant W on the football field at orientation all have the capacity to lead. Our work is to help students find channels to express their leadership and continue to grow as leaders.
The outcome of our influence in the formation of leaders is evident in our alumni. UAA alumni are attorneys who clerked with a Supreme Court justice. They are legislative directors who testify in front of Congress. Our alumni are Rhodes scholars now in law school, technology entrepreneurs who make a difference in rural schools in India, and Foreign Service officers who represent the United States internationally. You can read the specific stories here.
As undergraduates, these alumni all embraced leadership experiences that transformed them. At the UW, they were Mary Gates Scholars, undergraduate researchers, and Honors students. They learned to see the world beyond their personal experiences and work to bring their talents in to the service of others. They embody the “me to we” concept of leadership.
We see students everyday, from advising appointments or simply walking across Red Square. Some we know personally, most we don’t. Collectively, however, our impact reaches all students and creates a path for individual transformation. Whether that path is ensuring classrooms are efficient learning environments, re-envisioning curricula to be intentional about student reflection and growth, or helping individual students connect to research and leadership opportunities at the UW—our combined impact is broad and deep.
It reminds me of the poem “An Experiment in Noise,” by slam poet Ken Arkind (featured in the Common Book). Arkind writes:
Together you make a sentence.
Together you have purpose.
Here, our students develop leadership and purpose. While their experiences here are unique, the cumulative effect is one of transformation and vocation, preparing them to move into their work and lead in diverse ways.
Though administratively we continue to live in fiscal ambiguity, as we enjoy this season of gratitude, I am thankful for our collective impact of our complementary work.