“... in education, as in sailing, to remain complacent and unmoving in a sea of change leads nowhere fast.”
NORWICH IS A STUDY IN CONTRASTS. Our venerable institution is steeped in two centuries of history and tradition and remains grounded in a value system that some outsiders might consider quaint, but that the rest of us know as the timeless and indelible essence of Norwich. Yet since its founding, Norwich has also been an institution unafraid to be the vanguard of change and innovation. I believe these two seemingly disparate characteristics are the reason Norwich University is more relevant than ever as it enters its third century of service to nation.
What I have tried most earnestly to do as president is honor our school’s history, traditions, and values, while making sure we remain relevant not only today, but far into the future. As a Coastie, I adhere to the nautical analogy of keeping one’s eye on the azimuth in order to stay the course. Because in education, as in sailing, to remain complacent and unmoving in a sea of change leads nowhere fast. And as much as I have accomplished in my 25-plus years as president, there is still more I want to do in the short time I have left.
To that end, I recently added two more “i’s” to the five institutional priorities which we, as a university, established in 2001, and which have helped us stay the course for nearly two decades. The original five are: improve learning, inspire students, information technology for all, invest strategically, and internationalize the campus. To these I have added “inclusive leadership” and “interdisciplinary collaboration,” areas I feel are paramount if Norwich graduates are to continue to be effective leaders and creative problem solvers in an increasingly interconnected and complex world.
Leadership is quite different now from what it was 50 years ago. Back then, college graduates entered a much more homogeneous workforce, made up primarily of people who looked, acted, and thought like they did. Whether in the public or private sector, the leaders of the future need to be able to lead people from different cultures with different value systems, and who don’t necessarily think like they do. What Norwich teaches today’s students is that if they are honorable, hold true to their values, and cultivate mutual respect, they will have the foundational skills to lead anyone, anywhere, on any mission, and succeed.
The seventh “i”—interdisciplinary collaboration—is the way of the future. Millennials are entering a world in which virtually everything is done in teams. Once popular cubicle walls are literally coming down so that diverse minds with complementary skills, backgrounds, and experiences can innovate and problem-solve together. Central to the Norwich After Next strategic plan, this idea is the driving force behind our many centers of academic excellence, providing platforms whereby faculty can employ high-impact practices throughout disciplines, giving students real-world experience before they actually get out into the “real” world.
As my retirement draws closer, my most fervent wish is to leave Norwich in a position of such strength and flexibility that as it follows its azimuth into the decades and centuries ahead, it remains as relevant and life-changing as it is today.
Richard W. Schneider
RADM, USCGR (RET.)
The Norwich Record | Spring 2019