Inaugural Address

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Gregory P. Crawford
October 10, 2016

Meaningful Connectivity and Shared Experience

These four mindsets of meaningful connectivity—holistic learning, social justice, change creation, and virtuous leadership—are fundamental to what we will teach and practice at Miami to advance the remarkable story that has brought us to this point in our history. Rooted in its exemplary past and present, Miami's vision for the future is unchanged from our founding intention, 207 years ago, to prepare students for useful, fulfilling, and successful participation in society. Our mindsets are a means to that end, and although I have talked about them individually, they are not isolated from each other. They are mutually informative and supportive within the experiences of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I'd like to share one example of many that has brought together our alumni, our faculty, and our students in a powerful way. You may have read the story about 16 Miami architecture students who designed sun shelters, greenhouses, and playgrounds to provide relief for Syrians living in a refugee camp in Jordan. The project was implemented through intensive Skype sessions. A Miami graduate, Laurie Balbo, originated the project. She described it as “the biggest project the International Relief and Development Agency has going, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees was ecstatic.”

Professor Diane Fellows said, "It took three months, 6,000 miles ... all that effort. ...That much shade allows someone in 100-degree heat to find respite, to find refuge. ...Projects like this, when you're working with people in different cultures, you're connected emotionally."

One of the students, senior Josh Gabbard, said, "We used technology to break down barriers that would otherwise prevent us from establishing a dialogue. The most important thing for me, though, was just realizing how significant the dialogue was. We may have been talking architecture, but the fact that we were talking at all was much more important."

This example of a shared experience is a living testament of the powerful connection that occurs when holistic learning, social justice, change creation, and virtuous leadership come together. It magnifies the "meaning" in meaningful connectivity.

Special Thanks

Before I conclude with two special announcements, I want to personally express my gratitude to those of you here today.

To our faculty—thank you. We're all here because of you. You give us inspiration in and out of the classroom, and your scholarship and commitment to teaching are the very heart of this incredible institution.

To our students—thank you. When we see the world around us and the challenges we face, I know we're in good hands. The world needs your idealism and passion for its betterment. Even amid the great difficulties and divisions we face, keep your enthusiasm and optimism. When others call you idealistic, thank them. When others call you unrealistic, prove them wrong. When others talk about hate and intolerance, model Love and Honor. And never forget the quote that encapsulates your Miami experience: "To think that in such a place, I led such a life."

To our staff—thank you. Your commitment and dedication and your caring support of everyone in our community make Miami beautiful from the inside out.

To our alumni—thank you … and, wow! You are models of leading a life of higher purpose. You're nearly 213,000 strong, and you have had such an impact on the world. Our students today will follow your footsteps and your examples in their own journeys.

To the Oxford, Middletown, and Hamilton communities—thank you. You are our first and best collaborators in our mission to build model communities of inclusion and support.

To our Board of Trustees—thank you. You demonstrate Love and Honor every day. You exemplify our commitment to civil and respectful discourse, collective decision-making, and shared vision.

To my family—thank you. I've always asked you not to "say anything until you hear me out." And no matter how crazy my ideas, you heard me out. Even when it involved riding thousands of miles on a bicycle or moving thousands of miles across the country.

To our leaders from the state of Ohio—thank you. I look forward to this incredible opportunity to lead Miami in partnership with you, and could not be happier that this gem of an institution is in the great state of Ohio, my home.

To all others present here today—thank you. I know I have big shoes to fill, following President Hodge and President Garland, who are also honored guests today. I arrived confident that everything is possible, and everything about Miami confirms it. Let us never be guilty of not dreaming big enough.

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