As we enter 2013, Kendall College President Emily Williams Knight reflects on 2012. She offers candid insights about two important aspects of student life at Kendall learned during her first year at the helm:
First, diversity in our college makes for a richer experience for all.
Fortunately I was raised by parents who believed in diversity and introduced me to many cultures early in my life. At Kendall, I’ve been reminded of the importance of having a diverse student body, and how rich it came make the learning environment. One of my favorite things to do each day is to ride the elevator to lunch (one of those times it is really packed) and ask students what country they are from. The record so far is 7 different countries represented in one elevator car. I am so proud of the warm, nurturing and openly expressive environment we promote on campus and beyond. I am grateful for each of the students, for the experiences they bring, and for the reminders they give me each day to appreciate our special community. Never does a day pass when I don’t look at our students and feel a sense of pride. I am honored that every student – from as close as Chicago or as far away as China – has chosen to come to Kendall. I am honored that they have chosen to share their life with us.
Also, getting a degree is just the first step.
During commencement this year, I experienced a profound moment. I had just finished delivering my remarks and while I remained at the podium for applause, a cold streak flashed through my body. As I looked out into the eyes of our more than 400 graduates, one thought came into my mind: “Have they learned enough, will they succeed, and did we do all we could to prepare them for the real world?”
At that moment, all I could do was wonder if we had done all we could… if in exchange for their time, talent, and treasures, we had exceeded the students expectations and prepared them to for success. In that moment, the responsibility of leading a college became perfectly clear: I own the creation of an environment where students learned, were prepared, and were given the tools to succeed. I was ultimately responsible for their futures and this weighed heavily on me.
The day after commencement, I planned meetings with the Provost to review our assessment plan, the Director of Career Services to better understand our support services and internship placement, and our Dean of General Education to learn more about these courses and their importance in the curriculum. I put every upcoming advisory board meeting on my calendar so I could hear from industry leaders what knowledge and skills they were seeking from recent college graduates.
Graduation rates matter, they matter a lot. However, what I now believe matters more is ensuring that we prepare our students for the rapidly changing, globally competitive environment. I want to ensure that we live up to our side of the promise: that our students will have the tools to succeed in their chosen profession and to thrive in the years ahead. If we do those things, Kendall College students will not only graduate, they will succeed in every subsequent step.
Are you a student or recent alumni? What do you think – is diversity of student body important? Is graduation the ultimate prize or is it just the first step? Share your thoughts in the comments!