During Convocation 2021, Drexel Looks Both Forward and Inward | Now

This year’s graduation ceremony at Drexel University was a clear sign that the college community has resumed its campus life and is, as always, looking to the future. It was also a sign that the University is doing it without forgetting the lessons, challenges and memories of the year spent far from each other.

The annual event kicked off the school year with a reminder of how the University is responding to today’s societal issues and the work that remains to be done, as well as all that its faculty, students and members of the professional staff have performed under extraordinarily difficult conditions. Held on October 7, the Convocation was hosted both in person and virtually, with the event taking place in the Korman Quad and live streamed for Dragons watching online. A video of the event will be posted on the Office of the Marshal’s website.

A mix of university leaders, faculty and student representatives took to the podium to address their fellow Dragons and share messages of hope, inspiration and the need to be conscientious and contributing members. the society.

“If we are to accomplish the greatest possible good for society, then each of us – as faculty members, students, professional staff, administrators and members of this community – must strive to become outstanding innovators,” Drexel chairman John Fry said in his speech.

Fry described three “core principles” that the Drexel Dragons can follow to become these “exceptional innovators”: embrace collaboration and teamwork; recognize and respond to failure; and the third is to cultivate diversity and inclusion to create an even more welcoming environment for people and ideas.

“As we relearn how to live and work together, embracing these principles will help us flourish together…. If we come together to do all of these things, we will continue to be a much better, more innovative Drexel who will accomplish even more things for the world. And hopefully we’ll have some fun along the way, ”Fry said.

The willingness to move forward while learning from the past – especially the past two years with crucial insight into racial injustice and social inequality – rather than rushing to resume pre-pandemic life, has been a key point raised several times during convocation. The overriding need to leverage Drexel’s resources and reputation for the greater good was also mentioned in many speeches.

“As a university, we have an important role to play,” said Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost Paul E. Jensen, PhD. “We are a place of civil discourse to ask questions and seek solutions, but we are not just a university. We are Drexel University. We’re built on a history of inclusion and partnership, on technology firsts, and on an entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that drives us to dig in and do the hard work that needs to be done. But, we can’t just rely on reputation. We have work to do to remain the University that we are known to be, and to become more. This will be our goal on the academic side of the University: coming together to build the systems and infrastructure needed to scale faster, to drive innovation, encourage partnerships and to better support our students, faculty, staff. , alumni and partners. “

The three keynote speakers were leaders, as Jensen noted, who “drive innovation and progress on campus and around the world”.

“Each brings a unique insight into the challenges we face and what it will take for Drexel to lead the necessary change,” said Jensen. “And everyone is a true collaborator at heart, welcoming colleagues, students, partners and the community to join in the effort.”

These speakers were:

Barber, a social epidemiologist, described 2020 and 2021 as a significant time in history where pervasive and persistent health inequalities were exacerbated not only by the pandemic, but also by social violence, climate change and racism. The time has also come, said Barber, to combat these forms of oppression and advance health equity and anti-racism by partnering with a wide range of experts and implementing the anti-racist principles and scholarship on and off campus.

“The questions that we all face, as individuals and as a university, contemplating and reflecting on what this moment means are not really technical. In fact, technical questions may turn out to be the easiest to answer, ”said Barber. “The real questions of this moment are deep questions that must be answered with both our head and our heart. The issues are complex, intertwined, and embedded in brick and mortar and the social fabric of our city, our nation, and our world. The solutions, therefore, cannot be simple dressings on the open wounds of entrenched inequalities. They must be bold and daring and rooted in a deep sense of collective and shared responsibility to right the wrongs of the past. “

Drexel’s new Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity is one way the University is committed to using its resources and shared expertise to work with and for the community. Launched last academic year and inaugurated this fall, the Center is driven by core values ​​and a people-centered approach to live up to its name. “Ubuntu” is a South African tenet which means “I am because we are” and represents both “a way of being and a call to action,” said Barber; she learned about it and was inspired by Marielle Franco, “a queer Afro-Brazilian scholar, human rights activist and local politician who was brutally murdered at the age of 38 in March 2018 for speaking the truth to power. “.

“The moment demands nothing less of us. In fact, our shared humanity demands it. We owe it to the ancestors who fought before us and to future generations who will come after us, ”said Barber.

For Montalto, who is also leader of the Drexel initiative for the Climate Year 2021 and director of the North American Center of the Urban Climate Change Research Network (UCCRN), now is also the time when collaboration and shared expertise must also be undertaken to create actionable change. Through the Year of the Climate, Drexel strives to become a more sustainable university both on campus and through its reach in the community, city and the world. Montalto spoke about the power of faculty bringing more scholarship and research related to climate change into the classroom to better prepare the leaders of tomorrow.

“Climate change amplifies the social, ecological, economic, infrastructural and health challenges that you already know,” said Montalto. “Let us complement our teaching of classical theory in these areas with an immersive learning experience and applied research activities that will require us and our students to face both the constraints and the opportunities that separate us from a form. much more sustainable, resilient and equitable development. . ”

The importance of looking to the future was also something Dion, a design scientist leading transdisciplinary research on functional tissue, spoke about in her opening speech. Finding inspiration – at the exhibition “Extreme Textiles: Designing for High Performance” at Cooper Hewitt Museum – to bring about changes in the textile and design industry as part of his own academic career, Dion discussed the importance of using and learning fundamental techniques to develop technological innovations and evolve industries , disciplines and everyday life to a better place.

“Our job often involves discovering more challenges than solutions at the start and creating our tools to achieve our vision,” said Dion. “Successful projects depend on complementary expertise, and many collaborations take years to establish good collaborators, respect each other’s processes and allow breakthroughs at the limit of the discipline. ”

The two student speakers at this year’s convocation, who like all Drexel students continue their education at Drexel to contribute to the changing world of tomorrow, discussed the importance of building community in their respective speeches.

President of the Government Association of Undergraduates (USGA) Jarod Watson, a fourth-year entertainment and arts management student, highlighted how the student body and student groups, while working with the Drexel administration, strive to “propel change to create a Drexel that we let’s all believe ”. As Watson noted, a conversation with a friend about increasing student turnout in elections sparked a change that, after many conversations and collaborations over time, led Drexel to shut down early on Election Day. last year to give the Dragons more time to vote.

“Growing up, my mom always told me to be the change you want to see in the world, and it took me a long time to recognize that change is not a monumental and unattainable concept,” Watson said. . “In serving in student government for four years, I have seen small moments of action and service blossom into something much bigger: meaningful change and real impact on the community.

Matthew Shirley, PhD candidate in Biomedical Engineering and President of the Drexel Black Graduate Student Union, urged Convocation attendees – especially students and graduate students – to research the “various systems in place to support you” and find a way to help you. community and on-campus mentorship.

“The University cannot prosper without the success of its students and, by default, the Graduate College cannot prosper without that of the graduate students,” said Shirley. “To enhance the first-hand experience of every student, Drexel recently released the Anti-Racism Task Force Final Report, a one-year in-progress report outlining Drexel’s concrete commitment to changing culture and climate. of the University in order to address systemic inequalities and injustices. I encourage all of you to read it, discuss it and not only become active participants in its vision, but practice accountability with the systems in place here in this institution.

This moment in time, both at Drexel and around the world, shows that connectivity and compassion have been so needed and shared, especially now that the University has once again welcomed its students, faculty and professional staff to the the campus.

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Steven L. Nielsen

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