August 25, 2009
WOOSTER, Ohio - College of Wooster President Grant Cornwell marked the official beginning of the 140th academic year with a compelling convocation address that outlined Wooster's mission as a liberal arts college, and the importance of aligning oneself with that mission.
Speaking in McGaw Chapel to students, faculty, staff, trustees, and
members of the community at large, President Cornwell extolled the virtues of
Wooster's historic commitment to "the enterprise of liberal
education" while reminding those who had gathered that all constituencies
must continue working together. He went on to say that it is important to ask
existential questions to help sharpen one's shared identity and reason for
being: "Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose? Is what we do
consistent with what we are here to do?"
The President listed two primary objectives for his address: (1) a restatement of
the College's mission to begin a campus conversation about "our sense of
purpose" and (2) guiding students to compare the core values and mission
of the College with their own. He then reflected on a slightly revised mission
statement, which he said is an attempt to "capture the essential qualities
and character of the college, drawn from our history, our current practices,
and the stories we tell about ourselves."
Describing Wooster's program of liberal education as both rigorous and dynamic, Dr.
Cornwell reminded students that the curriculum is difficult and calls for
commitment, persistence, and a willingness to stay with a program of study that
is not always immediately gratifying or stimulating. He added "the best
education calls for breadth, depth, and integration of knowledge and the
cultivation of skills in inquiry, reasoning, rhetoric, and creative
expression." Noting that as knowledge changes and technology transforms
traditional methods of inquiry and communication, Dr. Cornwell proclaimed that
a liberal education is as viable as ever. "Liberal education is not a dead
or static endeavor," he said. "It calls for continuous innovation and
constant rethinking...I submit that the purpose of a liberal education is to
prepare students for productive lives as responsible global citizens."
In reviewing the College's strengths, President Cornwell said, "Wooster does
not teach students what to think, but how to think. In this way, we seek both
to uphold and cultivate freedom of inquiry." He also covered four core
values that enable Wooster to maintain its institutional integrity: (1)
independence of thought, (2) intellectual honesty and academic rigor, (3)
social responsibility, and (4) diversity and inclusivity, a concept he
developed to describe Wooster's desire to include students from a variety of
racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. "We believe that
excellence in liberal education is only possible in a community of learners
that includes members who bring a diversity of identities and beliefs to our
common purpose," he said.
In closing, he invited students to take ownership of
their liberal education, and to create its meaning through their own act of
will. "If you do this, you will be here for the very reason this college
exits," he said. "In realizing your purpose, you realize ours."
Linda Morgan Clement, campus chaplain and director of interfaith campus ministries
opened the ceremony by calling on those in attendance to clear their minds of
work and words and become more aware of self and the world around us. Interim
Provost Shila Garg announced faculty promotions and retirements, while
welcoming new faculty as well as those returning from leave. Senior Alexander
Jue, President of the Student Government Association, also spoke along with
sophomore Jaquet Long, who represented the Black Student Association, and sophomore Micheal O'Duffy, who represented the International Student Association.
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