I was honored to be asked to speak at the ribbon-cutting and dedication of UMW’s amazing new ITCC (aka the Convergence Center). [For a great time-lapse of the building being built…]
My brief remarks are posted below.
Let me offer my own welcome to all of you and my thanks for coming this afternoon.
I want to start by offering some much-needed “thank yous” to people involved in this project. Thank you to my fellow ITCC Building Committee members for all their efforts in dreaming up a new space in which people could work. Thank you to the architects and designers at HEWV for turning that dream into a vision. Thank you to UMW’s Len Shelton and Joey Straughan and W.M. Jordan’s Frank Bliley for their efforts in making sure that the vision became a reality. Thank you to Provost Jonathan Levin and Vice President Rick Pearce for stepping up with the resources necessary to operate the building. Thank you to the new residents of the building for working with each other to ensure the space becomes all it can be. Thank you most of all to John Morello, for shepherding this project from conception to creation. It is not a stretch to say this building would not be here today were it not for his leadership. Let’s give him a well-deserved round of applause.
Edward Burger, the president of a small liberal arts institution in Texas recently said, “There are only two branches to this job: No. 1, make sure students are getting the most profound, life-changing, life-enhancing educational experience they can, and, No. 2, make sure that 100 years from now, whoever’s sitting in this chair will have the resources so he or she can do the exact same thing.” [“A Professor in the President’s Chair: Pushing for a ‘Friendly Revolution’ – People – The Chronicle of Higher Education — http://chronicle.com/article/A-Professor-in-the-Presidents/148527/]
Now I haven’t ever sat in President Hurley’s chair, but it seems clear to me that this Convergence Center addresses both of these goals. The first is perhaps obvious to anyone who has walked around it. [And if you haven’t, please take advantage of the tours that will be offered after this ceremony.] Simply put, the opportunities for transformational experiences for students exist throughout the space. Less obvious is how constructing a building contributes to (rather than subtracts from) an institution’s resources.
And the answer to that is that it is buildings like these that bring in new students, buildings like these that inspire faculty, buildings like these that engage staff, and buildings like these that attract donors. The Convergence Center introduces the UMW community to a wide array of technologies and opportunities that simply haven’t existed before, and in a format that doesn’t exist at other schools.
Now, much has been made in the press in recent years of the potential for technology to alienate people from each other. This technology-rich building contradicts that claim. With its classrooms and collaboration spaces, with its communal furniture and its multiple centers of student support, with its formal and informal gathering spaces, this building is a physical manifestation of the institution’s emphasis on–no, the centrality of–the relationship between people: faculty and student and staff — the relationship between teachers and learners, mentors and mentees. Yes, it is a technology-enabled building that supports our digital spaces, but it does so to further enable the personal connections that are at the center of knowledge creation and at the core of the deeply collaborative experience of learning.
It is also a manifestation of UMW’s leadership in the field of digitally enabled creativity. It is an institutional commitment to the future of teaching and learning, a future in which we see even more than before the melding (a convergence) of the curricular and co-curricular in one space. This building represents the future of UMW while maintaining the commitment to students, to individual and group exploration, and to a variety of learning techniques. The building itself, with so much glass, surrounding Campus Walk itself, is also an acknowledgment of our responsibility as a state institution of higher learning to be outward facing, to be transparent in what we do and what we have to contribute to the region, the nation, and the world.
So, to students, faculty, and staff of the University of Mary Washington: welcome to your new home on campus.