Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Vetting of a Vision

Last week, we vetted a draft of our campaign vision with our Board of Directors. The exercise was invaluable -- which is not to say that it led to a complete validation of the vision we advanced or produced anything close to perfect clarity on where we should go.

One board member said the statement did not fully capture the spirit of humanism that pervades the University culture. Another said it did not accurately depict the friendliness of the campus, a place, as he saw it, where others look you in the eye, shake your hand with conviction and smile with genuine warmth. Yet another said it did not capture the Catholic identity that had been so well-stated in an earlier articulation of mission, vision and values. Still another seized on the section that alluded to the Beatitudes and said that it should move from the second to the first page and be used to further elucidate the intellectual and spiritual foundations on which Georgetown stands. One trustee reminded the others that the statement was meant to be inspirational not descriptive, a notion the moderator seconded, saying the statement was meant to be a "locker room" talk not a game plan. One director opined that the statement didn't capture the happiness of the student experience while others focused their efforts on the need to clarify certain word choices and phrases.

So, with such a range of opinions expressed, why did I consider the exercise successful? First of all, the Directors were engaged. Their reactions were thoughtful and heartfelt. They cared about where the University was going and how it described its animating passions and guiding forces. Second, we learned a great deal about what was most important to those that spoke up which will allow us to find the campaign project or initiative that is closest to their hearts or most consonant with their hopes. Third, they learned more about each other which will help them bond and better understand one another which can only make future deliberations more considerate and productive. Finally, all could better understand the challenge of melding multifarious views into a more cohesive case for support and a greater spirit of common cause. And that task, the one of melding many into one, is a challenge that requires deliberate resolve and patient persistence, one that will never satisfy any single individual, most especially the writer of such statements, but one that will produce a greater sense of community.

Ralph Ellison said, "American is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many." Our founders, foreseeing that fate, adopted as a motto for a new democracy, "e pluribus unum (from many, one) ." And the early leaders of Georgetown made their motto "Utraque Unum, (from two into one), which comes from the epistle to the Ephesians, but the University's website notes, "As is the way in universities, the two words have taken on a variety of meanings from other contexts; the accommodation of learning and faith; the gathering of the sciences and the arts; and most moving of all, the joining of the blue and gray after the Civil War. It is hard not to think that the original choice of this text looked also to the fit of the old faith into the new Republic, the dream of Archbishop Carroll (Georgetown's founder)."

It's nothing new, this challenge of vetting a vision, of listening to many different stakeholders and trying to incorporate as many ideas and aspirations as possible without losing the "oneness" that makes the parts cohere, that creates a whole greater, deeper and stronger than the sum of the parts.

The formulation and reformulation of vision, with all it entails -- from its first articulation from a formative thinker, through the process of incorporation and accommodation, of creating a bigger tent without breaking the main mast -- is the real challenge of every great leader and the real mission of every lasting enterprise and institution.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Campaign Vision (Part II)

Okay, here's a second draft of the campaign vision statement that I shared with you last week. The latest version is a more direct explanation of the campaign and a bit less of a soul search. It is more didactic and less Socratic, and has a more accessible, logical structure. I have been going back and forth between the two version to see if anything truly significant has been lost. It's a hard call. Perhaps I will have a better perspective after the document has been vetted with various constituencies, which is very important to achieve buy-in and to make sure that we are ready to implement what we promise. I wonder if it still is enough of a call to greatness, if it reaches deep enough into our soul and holds us to a holds us to a high enough standard to inspire the greatest possible support.

Anyway, here it is for your review.

What We Ask of Ourselves
A Vision for 2020 and Beyond

Four questions bring our aspirations for Georgetown University’s $1.5 billion campaign into focus: Why Georgetown? Why now? What can we accomplish? What will it take?

Why Georgetown?

“All of us (at Georgetown) enjoy a privilege that is very rare in our world – a beautiful world – but a world marked by injustice…a world in desperate need of your dreams. What you do with this privilege matters. We are not alone. We have each other. We also have women and men who need us – who are looking to us – to respond to the challenges that define our world today. In the words of former Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, we must accept the responsibility of being women and men for others: Women and men who accept responsibility not only for their own personal development…but for the collective development of the human family.” — President John J. DeGioia

With these words, President John J. DeGioia welcomes the freshman class to Georgetown University each fall. In so doing, he does more than orient these students to a campus; he defines what is unique about Georgetown as an institution dedicated to service. He points to Georgetown’s greatest resource: its people — students and faculty, alumni and friends, women and men for others.

To be of Georgetown begins not with what we ask for ourselves but what we ask of ourselves, about how we will use the gifts we have been given to serve others. As it becomes increasingly clear that we live in one environment, one economy and one society, and that weakness in one part, if left unattended, is a threat to the whole, what do we ask of ourselves?

Our campaign, the most ambitious in the university’s history, will provide Georgetown with the resources it requires to meet this challenge in 2020 and beyond. Its greatest priority will be an unprecedented investment in tomorrow’s leaders through scholarships. It will strengthen Georgetown’s position as a convergence point in the creation and dissemination of knowledge through strategic investments in faculty excellence, transformational initiatives and the creation of a model microcosm of what the university seeks to accomplish in the world.

Georgetown is not a just a university that inspires its community members to give their time and treasure to — in order to realize limited campus objectives — but a university that inspires its community members to give through to advance its traditions and create a better world. They see the spirit in which Georgetown builds knowledge and leadership to address the most difficult issues of the 21st century. They identify with the sense of commitment and service that pervades Georgetown’s community, and the determination with which the university seeks to build upon its purpose, place, moment and unique strengths to make the most enduring contribution to the human family.

Why Now?

“There is nothing quite like this moment.”— President John J. DeGioia

These questions take on a greater urgency as a shaken nation and a world searches for the bedrock on which to build a better future. We have seen so many seemingly tall houses wash away because they were built on the sands of expediency, falsity, foolishness, fear and intolerance. We look to the institutions that remain, particularly those that have thrived over centuries, and ask which of these can still be believed in and trusted to live up to their principles and deliver on their promise. Georgetown University is such an institution.

With the most competitively selected students in university history and deeply rooted in one of the world’s most influential cities, Georgetown now stands poised and prepared to make a far greater contribution to the world than ever before.

As a university that has reached the highest levels of achievement with modest resources compared with many of its peers among top-ranked universities, Georgetown offers an efficiency of purpose and performance that is perfectly suited to these times. As supporters have come to understand how Georgetown has efficiently converted their gifts into significant and lasting gains, they have increased their investment in the university. In fact, in the past year, in the face of the most challenging economic climate in the past 75 years, Georgetown supporters gave in record numbers and record amounts.

This inspirational support could not come at a more opportune moment. In a troubled economy, more families struggle to afford a first-rate education for their children. The university’s historic commitment to need-blind admissions and meet-full-need financial aid has made the university what it is today by making Georgetown a viable choice for all of the best students and not merely those who can afford it. No priority is more important to the university’s academic competitiveness. To sustain this historic commitment, we must expand scholarship funding.

Gifts to the campaign will have both immediate and long-range impact. Scholarship support will help prepare new generations of leaders who will go on to make a disproportionate difference.

Support for the curriculum will hone the skills and shape the consciences of those who will, in remarkably large numbers, go on to care for the sick, create law, shape public policy, influence foreign affairs, spur economic growth, foster innovation, create, teach, or build richer, more diverse communities.

New commitments to research will generate knowledge that leads to more efficient government, sophisticated and humane health care, environmental sustainability, enlightened jurisprudence, interreligious understanding and conflict resolution.

Endowments for capital improvement will create model environments for leadership development, character formation, citizenship, multi-cultural understanding, and artistic or athletic development.

What Can We Accomplish?

Through these investments, five central accomplishments can be attained. We seek to:

1. Make Georgetown the destination of choice for the world’s most accomplished and altruistic young people.

2. Design a complete, comprehensive campus life experience that ensures the most competitively selected students in Georgetown’s history develop their talents and deepen their conscience so that they can become “difference-makers” in whatever field they choose.

3. Attract and maintain faculty members who nurture and guide the talent of the remarkable young people entrusted to their care by the far-reaching relevance of the knowledge they produce, and the passion and proficiency with which they share that knowledge in the classroom and beyond.

4. Create a microcosm of a meritocratic world on our campuses: a world that places equal emphasis on the capacity of one’s intellect and the content of one’s character, a world that respects the dignity of each individual and demands adherence to the highest standards of ethical and intellectual conduct, a communicative, interconnected world that allows difference-makers and problem solvers to interact and innovate, and a world whose form allows its members to function at the height of their abilities.

5. Launch a series of initiatives from our positions of greatest strength to address the challenges that define our age, including those in globalism, conflict resolution, systems medicine, international development, global leadership development, environmental sustainability and transnational law.

What Will It Take?

So that it might better serve in these ways and for these purposes, Georgetown University seeks to secure $1.5 billion for the following uses: $500 million for scholarships to equip 1,789 of the most competitively selected students in the university’s history, $400 million toward faculty excellence, $300 million for transformational initiatives and $300 million toward creating a model microcosm.

Georgetown undertakes this ambitious challenge to ensure that its doors are open to the best students, to strengthen its faculty excellence and student experience worldwide, to ensure that graduates are prepared for the challenges that define our world, to create knowledge, to improve the human condition and to foster opportunity. In the words of President DeGioia, we must accept the responsibility of being women and men for others.