Today’s education landscape is becoming increasingly competitive with new entrants and existing traditional institutions who are challenging the boundaries of higher education, one in which Webster has owned for many years. These are truly exciting times for innovators and entrepreneurs in the brain industry.
This begs the question – what is the purpose of Webster University as an institution of higher learning? What is our competitive advantage? What are we doing to remain relevant in our pursuit to offer the most perishable of all commodities – knowledge? How can we reaffirm our purpose as an educational institution? How must we affirm our commitment to transforming lives through access to the all important standard-bearers – ideas, and intellectual curiosity, the essential element that empowers and transforms people, communities and above all offers the opportunity to move people and nations from good to greatness?
What are we doing to ensure that what we do and how we do it will not become old and stale? We must stay on the forefront of innovation by demonstrating the audacity of courage to see things differently, by offering fresh insight that would create new ways to bring the awesome power of education to all who seek it? We are doing it to ensure that we will not be deleted? It’s a commitment that will require the collective efforts of the permanent citizens of Webster – you, the alumni.
I believe that our institutional mission has purpose. Our goal is meaningful – Webster University is the bridge for so many people the world over we are the way for those who are thirsty for the sustenance of the fountain of knowledge to take a refreshing drink of knowledge an avenue to go from where they are to where they want to be.
I am reminded of Simon and Garfunkel’s classic song, Bridge Over Troubled Water, a compelling song with a lot of inspiration behind it. The song tells a story of a drawbridge operator who lived near the bridge which he was in charge of. It was his responsibility to let boats pass beneath by raising the bridge and trains pass on top by lowering the bridge.
One day he received the familiar signal that a train was approaching. Seeing the silver flash in the distance, he reached over to pull the switch that would lower the bridge. And then, he looked down in horror to see his son, who had been playing under the bridge, now caught in the rigging. With no time to leave and release his son and then get back to lower the bridge, he is trapped into making a choice that none of us would ever hope to make: either lower the bridge and save the lives of hundreds of people on the train, but lose his child or save the life of his child and let the train crash.
This song and the story behind it speaks to the difficult decisions that our students today and tomorrow must grapple with. It’s the reality of making difficult but clear choices to save ourselves by either embracing the me, myself and I code to live by, or to do the right thing and to live our lives for a higher purpose, a greater calling, a bridge over troubled water.
In the turbulent times of our present, Webster must represent a stabilizing and reliable force -- a bridge over turbulent waters – and be prepared and willing to withstand the strong currents of the 21st century. Our bridge is a human bridge made up of the will to empower others, a bridge held up by history and tradition strengthened by the commitment of our faculty. It’s a bridge that stands for perseverance, vigilance, accountability, and empowerment; a bridge that will stand the test of time.
We need to build our institution by strengthening who we are, clearly focused on impacting the greatest constituency of all our current students and alumni. We must remain steadfastly, dedicated to transforming our society, remain dedicated to lifting up others by positioning our students, to overcome the challenges of work and life. My prayer is that one day we can say with total conviction, the words to the song sail on silver girl, sail on. Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way, see how they shine.
"Find meaning in every conversation - It's not how long the conversation lasts; it's how good it is. "
- Dr. Benjamin Akande
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