Geoffrey S. Mearns
2018 Fall Opening Convocation
Friday, August 17, 9 a.m.
Emens Auditorium

'You are the reason'

You are the reason that all of us should be proud to be members of this university community. And you are the reason that I am optimistic about our future.

Today, I will share with you why I am increasingly optimistic. I will share with you why my pride and my enthusiasm continues to grow as we embark on the second century of Ball State University.

'New Multicultural Center in the heart of campus'

The new Multicultural Center will be in the heart of campus, where it belongs.

I remember the first time I saw our current center. I was walking my dog on a Saturday afternoon last Summer, and I saw an outdated sign in front of a small white house. The sign said that this modest structure was our Multicultural Center.

I had been the president for a few months, and no one had suggested that I tour the Center. And that day, I had just discovered why. I then found out that, during our campus tours, we don’t take prospective students and their families by the Center because it might send the wrong message. The wrong message, indeed.

That is why I am proud that, in just a few years, our new Multicultural Center will be located in the center of our campus. That is the message we want to send—that diversity and inclusion must always be at the center of all that we do.

'The reasons for our success'

I met many of you this past academic year during my walking tours of campus. 

Jennifer joined me for several of these tours. Over the course of more than 30 hours, I visited more than 50 buildings and more than 240 offices and departments. I have one last tour scheduled for September.

These tours helped me—both of us, really—to learn so much about the people of Ball State. Your skill, your experience, and your dedication are the reasons for our success.

'An extraordinary experience'

But I want to share an extraordinary experience from one of our two [strategic planning] student forums.

During the forum, I told the students that we believe that our faculty and staff are personally committed to the success of our students. I indicated that this distinctive attribute of our academic culture was a point of pride that we share with prospective students and their families.

Then I asked the students to raise their hands if, based on their experience on our campus, this representation was an accurate one. Every student—every student—raised his or her hand. That was impressive. That was gratifying.

'Our mission statement'

Every good strategic plan includes a mission statement—a clear, concise articulation of our fundamental purpose. Why we exist and what we intend to achieve. Our proposed mission statement will not surprise you.

It will affirm our historic mission: by engaging our students with dedicated faculty and staff in teaching, research, and creative activities, we empower our graduates to have fulfilling careers and to have meaningful lives. Our mission statement also recognizes that, in order to honor our promise, we must inspire our graduates to be lifelong learners and to serve others, so that we may enhance the vitality of our region, our state, and our world.

'Innovation and courage'

Consistent with our culture, we will recommend that we include Innovation—that is, a commitment to being even more creative, responsive, and progressive.

To meet the challenges we face and to seize the opportunities those challenges present, we will also recommend that we add Courage—that is, a commitment to set ambitious goals and to take the risks necessary to achieve them.

While we may be expressly articulating these two values for the first time in a strategic plan, these values have been firmly rooted in the Ball State experience for many years. And we have been instilling and nurturing those values in our students for a long time.

'Ambitious, long-term goals'

The [strategic planning committee] will propose four ambitious, long-term goals.

The first unifying goal relates to undergraduate excellence and innovation.

The second unifying goal that the committee will propose concerns advanced and lifelong learning.

The third unifying goal that the committee will propose concerns community engagement and impact.

We are very engaged with our community, and for many years, that engagement has had a significant, positive impact.

We will propose that our campus build on this legacy of service. We will challenge ourselves to become internationally recognized for mobilizing and leading community partnerships that will revitalize Muncie and our region. Our sustained effort will ensure that this prosperity and good fortune will extend to all of our neighbors in the years to come.

Our fourth and final unifying goal is institutional and inclusive excellence.

'Our proposed strategic plan is different'

When we distribute our proposed [strategic] plan, you will quickly see that it’s different than some previous plans. It is not a long list of 100 discrete tactics. It is not a task list.

To the contrary, it is an ambitious plan with bold, high-level strategies. During the implementation phase, each college and each division will be responsible for developing its own strategic plan. You will be entrusted—you will be empowered—to determine how each one of you can best contribute to our success. I believe it is only with your continuing input and expertise that we can realize our great potential.

“That expression of gratitude is special”But I would like to share one final reason why I am confident about our future—it’s the character of the people on our campus and in our community.

Jennifer and I have lived in a lot of different cities over the course of our lives.

But Jennifer and I have noticed something special here on this campus and in this community.

You and your colleagues and your neighbors have not simply welcomed us to the area. You and so many people have expressed your gratitude for us having decided to come to this university and to this community. In our experience, that expression of gratitude is unusual. It’s special. And it has inspired us to embrace this opportunity with a deepened commitment to serve you—our colleagues and our neighbors.