A Message from the President, 7/1/2013
Dear members of the Southwestern University community,
As today is the first day I have the privilege to call Southwestern University my home, I wanted to write a brief message to share my excitement in joining this special community—one that values its rich traditions while at the same time is willing to re-think and re-imagine how it articulates and delivers the University’s mission in this new century.
In my mind, the true promise of education is to transform lives while preparing individuals to understand and solve the problems of the future world—problems that have yet to be posed. The ideal liberal arts institution fosters an intellectual audacity that dares to confront complex issues, an imagination that creates artful and original ideas and solutions, a sensitivity that foresees the implications of those ideas, an ability to articulate and execute those solutions, and a moral compass to lead the way. Southwestern University stands out as an intellectual community that not only embraces this idealized view of the academy, but also has dedicated itself to making that vision a reality.
Over the past four months I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet with a number of individuals and engage with a number of offices, departments, and units. Although I am sorry that I have not had the chance to connect with more of the community, I do hope to change that in the months ahead.
In every one of my conversations with students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, parents, emeriti faculty, and friends of the University, I left that encounter inspired by two recurring thoughts: First, the human capital at Southwestern is, by far, its greatest asset. Second, even given the many profound elements that make Southwestern stand out among residential liberal arts institutions, the collective creativity, imagination, and innovation of that human capital has not yet been fully tapped. In other words, I believe that as great as the people of Southwestern are, there is further greatness within each individual and the community as a whole appears eager to inspire itself to further flourish. The promise of this reality is what excites me as I begin my new role here at SU and fills me with genuine optimism. Not just optimism about Southwestern’s long-term disciplined financial future or about our ability to move forward in an open, intelligent, collaborative, and respectful manner, but enormous optimism that together we can lead a national conversation and re-define both the intrinsic and practical value of the liberal arts.
As an educator for more than 30 years, I appear to be incapable of not assigning homework. So I close these personal reflections by offering you a challenge—the first of many, I assure you. As I continue to learn about our institution and become a member of this community, I will continue to look at Southwestern with new eyes. I invite you to join me in looking forward: To look at our special institution, our important mission, what we do, and how we do it with fresh eyes.
While accepting that challenge is by no means an easy task, I offer an even greater one: To consider anew how we can collectively and individually better realize our most prized goals of engaging minds and transforming lives and then to experiment by putting those new and perhaps even daring ideas into practice. That is, I urge you to view this moment as a new start for all of us, which, while exciting, is also daunting—embracing new ideas and letting go of some old ones are always challenging. In some sense, I’m inviting us all to ‟hit the reset buttonˮ together so as to allow us to become an even stronger Southwestern University. I hope you will reach out and share with me your thinking as well as your successes and even those awkward (yet often insightful) moments when things did not go according to plan. I look forward to being enlightened and energized by your ideas as well as celebrating your inspired triumphs and informative tragedies.
Finally, I wish to express my deep appreciation to all of you for what you have done and continue to do for Southwestern—to the faculty, staff, and emeriti, who foster a rich intellectual experience, mentor students, and make living and learning on an inviting and beautiful campus a reality; to the students, who enliven the campus with their energy, optimism, hard work, commitment to community, and dedication to discovery; to the alumni, trustees and friends of the University, who represent Southwestern in such exemplary ways and sustain and support an institution they hold so dear; and finally to the parents, who have given the most precious gift to Southwestern and its future—entrusting us with the education of their children at a singular moment in their lives. I am truly honored to join you as we look to the future with wisdom and creativity on what I hope will be an intellectually stimulating, meaningful, and joyful journey. For I sincerely believe that this can be our moment: That together we can not only make history here at Southwestern University, but can also change the course of history in higher education throughout the land.
With my sincere best wishes,
Edward B. Burger
President and Professor
P.O. Box 770
Georgetown, TX 78627