Annual Address 2011
David C. Hodge
September 29, 2011
As the SPTF concluded, we can accomplish this only if we understand that the recommendations taken together yield a culture that pursues excellence vigorously, with a deeper understanding of our mission and a deeper engagement with the external environment. In my remarks today, I would like to discuss the outlines of cultural change that I believe are central to our future success and then describe a few of the advances made in this past year that are leading to progressive cultural change.
Creating Intentional Cultural Change
All of us have an intuitive understanding of culture. It is some form of a commonly held set of attitudes, beliefs, goals, and practices. One of the most powerful elements of culture is its invisibility. We think and act almost unconsciously across a wide range of daily experiences. One of the goals of a liberal education, and most certainly our emphasis on study abroad, is to gain a greater awareness of our own culture by coming to understand "the other." By encountering people and cultures that are different from our own, we begin to understand that which we have taken for granted.
How would we describe Miami's culture today? We value academic excellence and student success. We have a strong sense of community. We pride ourselves in the highly personal environment that we have created for our students and ourselves. And we certainly value tradition. Tradition provides an enduring base to our identity and it anchors our actions in our common values. On the other hand, this spirit of tradition, if carried too far, can inhibit progress by generating resistance to needed change. How often, and in so many different circumstances, have we encountered the phrase, "We have always done it that way?"
As the SPTF report made clear, change is no longer an option. Whether we like it or not, rapid and profound change is impacting higher education, and it is imperative that we develop the capacity not merely to respond to these changes, but more importantly, to seize the opportunities that change brings to advance Miami. To the extent that we see our response to changes around us as a series of discrete actions and decisions, our success in meeting those changes will be limited, and momentum will be hard to develop. To advance Miami, as the SPTF emphasized, we need to see their report and recommendations as part of a broader change in our culture, i.e. in our attitudes, beliefs, goals, and practices. Quite simply, we need to create a culture that embraces change confidently and enthusiastically, a culture that sees change as opportunity rather than necessity, a culture that engages change to pursue excellence relentlessly.
Given the scale of change that we are currently facing and will certainly face in the future, we need a sense of urgency in creating this culture. There is not time for our culture simply to "evolve." We must act with intention, and we must act now, to create a culture that is true to our values, yet makes us a more agile, forward-looking university. I believe that a powerful way to think about the culture we need is through the lens of entrepreneurial thinking.
Creating an Institutional Entrepreneurial Culture
Let me begin by noting that I am not talking about entrepreneurship as the creation of new businesses. Rather, I am using the concept of entrepreneurship as a way of thinking that can be embraced either by an individual or by an institution. Peter Drucker described this way of thinking very succinctly: "entrepreneurs innovate." Whether it is an individual person or an institution, this is a great starting place in defining an attitude or a culture that is forward-looking and opportunity-seeking. In a recent book, Engines of Innovation: The Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century, Holden Thorp, the chancellor at UNC Chapel Hill, and Buck Goldstein, an entrepreneur in residence there, add several important dimensions to entrepreneurial thinking.
"There is more than one kind of entrepreneurial personality, and our experience is that all kinds of people can be taught to think like an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs do, however, share a set of common attributes. They are willing to live with risk and uncertainty because the world they inhabit is highly unpredictable. They are not afraid to fail. They are willing to venture outside their comfort zone and to be what those in the liberal arts call "life-long learners." Because so much of what entrepreneurs do has not yet been invented, they are willing to make it up as they go along. Most important, entrepreneurs are comfortable with ambiguity...." (Thorp and Goldstein, 2010, p7)
Another important quality that is shared by entrepreneurs, according to Brett Smith, director of our 15th ranked entrepreneurship program, is that they are "opportunity obsessed," that is, they see opportunity everywhere. Brett also includes commitment and determination, leadership, selfreliance and adaptability among the qualities that describe the mindset of entrepreneurs. It is important to note that more than half of the majors in the entrepreneurship program come from outside the Farmer School of Business, a tangible reflection of the broad applicability of entrepreneurial thinking.
What is impressive about these observations regarding entrepreneurial thinking is how well they align with many of the core educational values of Miami. How often do we encourage our students to take risks, to go outside of their comfort zone, to prepare themselves for a lifetime of living and learning, and to seek meaning from ambiguous situations, i.e. situations where there are no "right" answers? How often do we encourage them to seize opportunities?