President outlines vision to build ‘The University of The Future’

August 29, 2019

President Olian stands at a podium.

“I am delighted to welcome you back to campus for what will be an invigorating new year,” she said. “I can tell you with certainty that you are the soul and spirit of this campus, and your dedication, intellect, passion and belief in our future is what makes Quinnipiac so special, a caring and connected community.”

She praised the university’s 1,500 full- and part-time faculty and staff for their continued passion and dedication to the students and university as a whole.

“As we begin Quinnipiac’s 90th academic year, we stand not just on the cusp of a new and promising semester, but we’re also at the beginning of an institutional journey,” she said. “In the year since I arrived, I truly appreciated your broad collaboration on the strategic planning process, a plan that now serves as the blueprint for our future.”

Many of the individuals sitting in the room offered creative and breakthrough ideas on the inspiring vision.

“We must recognize that where the world is headed is not a mere extension of the past,” she said. “There are new obligations and opportunities presented to use as we position graduates — and ourselves — for the unfolding future of the 21st century.

She encouraged each of the professors and staff to focus on three imperatives for young people entering professional careers:

The worsening profile of mental health in this country, which is especially evident among younger generations, requiring skills and expertise across multiple fields, compassion from the healing professions, and interdisciplinary awareness and policy changes to an extent that were not nearly as urgent in the past.

Another societal, in fact planetary, shift that will test new frontiers in many fields, is the impact of climate change. Many disciplines will be required to study, understand and minister to the consequences of climate change, from forestry to urban planning, from marine biology to medicine, from geology to zoology to psychology, and many more, all fields that will be at least partially shaped by climate change.

A similar radical trajectory of change is evident in another area — data analytics and the promise offered through disruptive advances and new insights available in many fields, from computational medicine, to political science or consumer behavior, to the study of comparative literature and the history of art — as long as there is an understanding of how to structure and exploit the power of digital data sets.

Members of the university community will need to address these changes and challenges — which in many cases offer opportunity — to achieve innovation and societal improvements, President Olian said.

“Quinnipiac has always been comfortable riding the front waves of change, and we must continue to do so,” she said. “That is how we shaped our strategic plan, as The University of The Future, and we are ready to become that institution.”

She offered the faculty and staff three challenges to position students for the mindset of the 21st century.

  1. Offer a data analytics course in every major at Quinnipiac.

“My goal, my challenge for you, is that each school, or cluster of departments that share interdisciplinary connections, develop a data analytics course — or courses — that fit the discipline, so that every graduate from Quinnipiac is data savvy,” she said. “That’s positioning our students for careers of the 21st century that will continue Quinnipiac’s distinction as a university uniquely aligned with the evolving needs of the marketplace.”

  1. Engage in individual kindness, one person a time.

“Volunteer to help families or groups in need; share food or give someone a bed; comfort a grieving or frightened soul; you are absolutely making a difference, sometimes a transformative difference, and so many of you do that daily,” she said. “Each of us, even with a seemingly small act, can make a positive difference in another person’s life, and one by one, we can change the scourge of “isms” in our communities.”

  1. Think “institution first.”

“What will prepare students for the mindset of careers of the 21st century, what opens their minds as enlightened citizens, how do we invest to build inclusive excellence, to nurture a heathy community to enable lifelong learning and connections?” President Olian asked. “Importantly, we must apply to ourselves the rigor and intellectual self-challenge that we expect of our students. If a university is a crucible that challenges young minds and helps them transform into mature adult citizens, we must do the same.”

She told her colleagues that she looks to the future with optimism and excitement.

“I am convinced of Quinnipiac’s bright future, because — most importantly — I have come to know and admire you — our faculty and staff,” she said.

Among those individuals she acknowledged were our 2019 recipients of the illustrious Center for Excellence awards:

  • Adrienne Betz, professor of psychology
  • Joseph DiGioaia, custodian
  • John Greenleaf, associate professor of civil engineering
  • Dennis Hanlon, fabrication support specialist in the School of Engineering
  • Susan Norkus, professor of athletic training
  • Susan Scoopo, secretary in the School of Communications

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