Inaugural Address

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Gregory P. Crawford
October 10, 2016

First: Holistic Learning

It is the heart of our identity at Miami.

True to its mission, Miami upholds an unwavering commitment to liberal arts undergraduate education as the training ground for transformational thinking and global citizenship. We honor the original meaning of a liberal arts education—focused on the effective formation of free persons and citizens—while applying modern design thinking to shape students with the characteristics and competencies for 21st-century success. There is an intrinsic correlation between a liberal arts education and innate curiosity, emotional intelligence, commitment to diversity, critical thinking, and creative problem solving.

Some media reports would make you think that the liberal arts are no longer relevant, that they are a remnant of 12th century education. Those here today know that is false. The liberal arts are not skills, core competencies, or computer codes. They cannot be mimicked by computers or memorized. They are the essence of holistic learning, the way we understand our deepest selves as human beings. And they engender in us an insatiable quest always to keep learning.

Don't get me wrong: training for a skill or vocation is important. But specific jobs and whole industries can become obsolete. Consider, for example, cartographers in the advent of the GPS. Telephone operators were replaced by automatic voice mail systems—which, come to think of it, many of us don't think is an improvement. And what happened to encyclopedias, Camelot Music, and Blockbuster Video? Some say that in the near future, postal carriers, travel agents, cab drivers, and cashiers will be replaced by machines and autonomous vehicles. At the same time, technology will open opportunities not yet imagined.

Hence, at Miami, our work is not limited to a student's four years on campus or to merely preparing them for their first jobs. It is to prepare them for a life of leadership and citizenship, to instill in them the capacity to adapt to constant change, whatever their major or career path. Though we put a date on diplomas as if a student's education is complete, that date marks the start of the next 40, 50, or 60 years of their lives.

In the words of Marni Goldberg, one of this year's "18 of The Last 9" outstanding young alumni honorees: "In the nine years since [my graduation], I am amazed by the profound effect Miami has had on my life. My four years in Oxford were life-changing. ...With each passing year, it's become clearer that walking across that stage in 2007 wasn't an end to my Miami experience, but rather just the beginning."

The mindset of holistic learning is ultimately about teaching students how to think. At Miami, our faculty encourage them to do that from day one. The First Year Research Experience allows students to participate in small, faculty-led teams. This semester, our first-years are studying the development of neural circuits in invertebrates and investigating how memories can change over time as part of behavioral neuroscience research. They design and implement a study, analyze data, and present results—not only absorbing knowledge, but creating it!

Programs such as Inside Washington, Inside Hollywood, Luxembourg, and Interactive Media Studies in San Francisco and Cincinnati immerse students in some of the most exciting and challenging experiences of their lives.

From a more personal perspective, in high school, I was interested only in being a physicist. In college, with more exposure to humanities courses, my breadth of knowledge transformed me. I entered college wanting nothing more than to be a physicist. Thanks to the arts and humanities, I graduated with a fuller understanding of what it means to be a human being.

To those who say liberal arts are no longer useful, I say look at the way more than 95 percent of graduates from all of our campuses are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation. Look at the company we keep as a Public Ivy (Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, University of North Carolina, Virginia), the company we keep as the top public teaching institution in the United States (Princeton, Yale, Brown, Rice, Wake Forest), and the company we keep among universities with the most alumni leading Fortune 500 companies, including Stanford, Princeton, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, the U.S. Military Academy, Cornell, and Harvard ... and we top them all with the number of women leading those companies.

Take a closer look and see the power of this "12th century education" that remains so relevant today—the holistic education that is the liberal arts thrives here, and as a result, our graduates thrive as Miami does, as a top public university in Ohio that is respected across the nation and around the world.

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