Systems Change

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Through our Vincentian mission,  we ask …

 What must be done? and  How must it be done?

photo (5)Our journey in France allowed us to walk through cities where these questions began to unfold in the life of St. Vincent de Paul.   We gathered in Folleville realizing that we would not have our community of Vincentians had it not been for the history of all that transpired in that town – the question of “what must be done”  was asked here.

photo (4)We walked the path in Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne where the townspeople came to assist a neighbor in need – with so much food,  St. Vincent knew that we needed to organize the great charity of people – “how must it be done”  was asked here,  providing a clear example of systems change.

As leaders,  we must think about the effectiveness of our ‘best efforts’ if not organized and sustainable.  Our greatest challenges in serving those most in need require this systems thinking  – a purposefully planned and organized use of the goodness of people,  the professionalism and knowledge of the related disciplines,  and the effective use of resources.    The transformation that is needed to address issues of poverty today requires nothing less.

photo (3)photo (2)Our journey continues;  however,  I am struck by the relevance of these two questions (what must be done and how should it be done) in our leadership and in the issues facing our schools,  families,  and communities.   My question becomes  … how are we answering  them?

Our Vincentian Heritage

As a Vincentian university, our mission inspires our studies, our service, our research, and our professional commitment to serving those most in need. We are joined in this mission by the other Vincentian Universities – DePaul University in Chicago and St. John’s University in New York City.

France BuildingWhat a privilege, therefore, to be asked to participate in the Vincentian Mission Institute to study St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. This provides is with an opportunity to think about the importance of the Vincentian mission as we prepare leaders across all disciplines of study.

We are now in France following the footsteps of St. Vincent. We initiated our trip in his birthplace in Dax (the Berceau) and will make our way to Paris. I am interested in the transformational role of St. Vincent as he began his life as an ambitious and successful man, bringing what seems to me to be a commitment to systems thinking and sustainability to his work with the poor.   In the professions of education and human services (among others), we are challenged by the need to influence systems that will sustain reforms and change the course of opportunity for those who are under-served.


France FoodSo as I enjoy the pastries during this journey through France. I will reflect on the contemporary application of our mission given the pressing issues we face today.

Salaries for Educators

I listen, with great interest, to the ongoing discussion about salaries for teachers and educational administrators (the CEOs of school systems). Often the bottom line in this discussion is this: Are educators paid too much?

In my experience, I have learned that teachers take on the awesome responsibility of facilitating the cognitive, psychological and psychosocial development of their students. These teachers continually strive to shape our world’s rapidly changing workforce by fostering crucial literacy and communication skills in our children, and by inspiring students to a higher level understanding of math, science and technology (to name a few). The support they provide to their students translates into success and innovation for engineers, medical doctors, scientists, and CEOs (again, to name just a few), who will lead us into the future.

Why, then, are we not talking about salaries that will entice our greatest young people to select teaching as their profession?

We know that the average salaries being discussed by the media are heavily weighted by those who are most tenured. It is the beginning salary, however, which drives young people into the profession as they consider how their skills and talents will translate into a career – a career which promotes fiscal independence or even one which will provide confidence in the ability to support a family within the economic conditions of this generation (not to mention paying student loans).

As a professional woman, I have been interested in seeing the entry level salary for teaching increase over the years, as I would like our most talented students to choose this exceptionally significant profession. The competition to choose other more lucrative careers is fierce…young women and men alike (both of whom are needed in our schools) have many professional opportunities and they should indeed consider the financial foundation and growth that is needed for a secure future. I would like to see teaching on that short list!

So we may ask … is the salary of a teacher too high?

I ask . . . what is the value of the professional who shapes the academic and personal development of our children and adolescents, influences our community through the education of its citizens, and imparts cutting-edge, 21st century knowledge and skills that are essential to the future workforce of our country?

Commencement – The Beginning

photo 1On the morning of our commencement,  I noticed how beautiful the campus looked with the timely arrival of spring (finally).  It was a tranquil and welcoming campus waiting, it appeared, for the laughter, the tears, and the excitement of commencement to begin.

It seemed like just yesterday that our graduates were moving in, looking for a parking spot for their first Tuesday morning class, or just beginning their research with faculty.   But here we are as witness to the accomplishments of the 1,100 graduates of Niagara University – the time has truly flown by.

One of the most pronounced honors I have as a dean is to present the candidates for their degree.  From baccalaureate to doctoral degrees,  it is with great pride that I watch our students walk across the stage knowing that we have inspired their quest for knowledge,  promoted inquiry in their response to the critical issues, and built the connections between theory and the professional skills they need for their career.    It is the persistence to go the distance, the commitment to excellence, and the willingness to lead and to serve that is evidenced in the accomplishments of the newest alumni of Niagara University.

This marks a new beginning for the class of 2014 and my message is to remember that the ‘world is your stage.’ Choose your path wisely; thank everyone along the way; continue to learn and nourish your spirit;  embrace all people, especially those who are poor and who are most in need; and make a deliberate difference in all that you do.

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Congratulations to all of our graduates and to the many people, family and friends, who have supported them along this journey!

Lasting Memory

Unknown-10I leave Vietnam with the warmth of the people in my heart and the beauty of the country in my memory.  We met many new colleagues and laid the foundation for partnerships with P-12 schools, university schools of education, and the Ministry of Home Affairs, among others.  Similar to our work in the United States, educational reform and the preparation of educational leaders who can ‘lead’ this reform is in the forefront of the discussion in Vietnam.

I leave with this picture of a child on a warm day – our global understanding does begin with children – and I am reminded that children from around the world are quite similar in many ways. On a very warm day, all of our children will smile while they enjoy the cool sweetness of their culture’s version of ice cream.   We can learn so much from each other when we embrace the simple smiles that extend across language, culture, and history.

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American Center

 

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photo 2The American Center of the U.S. Embassy was festive during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for this new facility.  The center, sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, is a one-stop source of up-to-date information about all aspects of the United States, its people, and its policies.
The American Center is open to the public and welcomes visits by government officials, academics, journalists, students, and others interested in information about the United States. Speaker programs, trainings, clubs practicing American English, debate and book discussions, film shows, exhibitions and music performances are planned for guests as well.
Although we missed the Ambassador during this event, we did meet several students who are studying English and are interested in visiting the U.S.  It was very exciting to be part of this event at our Embassy, so of course I was singing along…

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The Seminar

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We had the opportunity to provide training for directors and deputy directors from the Ministry of Home Affairs.  We learned from them as we spoke about management and performance – my topic being the development of employees in the public sector.  The training was in a formal setting with simultaneous translation.  It was quite interesting to present this way and I realize that I should have talked a bit slower! We had a lot of questions and a good discussion.

 

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