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Matt Branam Delivers the Drumbeat, "Rose-Hulman is on the Move," in Address to Faculty

September 2, 2011

Symposium 2011

President Matt Branam's Address to the Faculty

branam podium

Good morning to all of you. Welcome to school, welcome to our school.

It has been called to my attention that Huffington Post has recently listed Rose-Hulman among the "Ten Colleges with The Best Professors." To my mind, Rose-Hulman's professors are simply the best. You truly are the best at what you do.

I am convinced that you are the best because you dedicate your energies, and your lives, to our students, rather than to your own careers. To you, Rose-Hulman's professors, the words "focus on the student" is not a slogan or an excuse, it is a commitment. It is a commitment to excellence.

I observe that what you are doing with your life is important. It is important because you are molding and shaping the lives of young people who may one day mold and shape the world in which we live. It is important because you are the gatekeepers on a path to a better life for many of our students. It is important because they believe in you, and they trust you to teach them what they need to know

I observe that what you are doing with your life is urgent. It is urgent because our world is in trouble and in need of bright well-educated engineers, mathematicians and scientists. It is urgent because our country is losing ground in our highly competitive global economy, and the education we deliver is critically needed and woefully short in supply.

On behalf of all of our students, past, present and future, I thank you for your dedication, and I thank you for your commitment.

Like so many of our alumni, I realize that I owe much to the faculty of Rose-Hulman. I owe the joys and the challenges of my life to my god for my time, my place, and the opportunities that have been laid out before me. I owe much of my competitive edge to my father for the work ethic of someone who can never do enough to please. And I owe my professional success, and the life to which I have become accustomed, to the faculty of Rose-Hulman.

In the life I have been blessed to live, the faculty of Rose-Hulman taught me the things that made all the difference. It has been the intellectual rigor, the intellectual honesty, the skills of problem solving, and the can-do/must-do spirit that I learned during my four years as a student at Rose-Hulman that has made all the difference.

I never miss a chance to thank those of you who actually had me in class. Dr. Grimaldi and Dr. Maloney, I apologize for being such a mediocre student - and I thank you for dedicating your lives to improving the lives of ordinary guys like me - and as a result, improving the lives of my children, and one day, my grandchildren.

As president of Rose-Hulman, I want to thank all of you for your support. After my service to our students, it is my service to you - the best faculty and staff at the best institution of its kind - that is my chief responsibility. I am humbled by the honor. I am challenged by our potential. And I will always give our school the very best I have to offer. By allowing me to serve, you allow me to do something very meaningful with my own life - and I thank you for that.

When I came back to Rose-Hulman to serve you as your president, I shared with you my motive - I love this school - our school - it changed my life. I asked you to trust my motive because I believe that if we understand and trust each other's motives, then we can accept more easily that we may not always agree on how, when, who or what. If we trust each other's motives, then we are in something important, and we are in it together.

I told you that I believe in consensus and collaboration and that I am dedicated to using trust as our currency, transparency and communication as our tools, and respect for one another as our keys.

I shared that I see tremendous potential everywhere I look on our campus. And many of you shared with me that we had set for ourselves a goal of being the best - a goal at being the best at what we do - and that we had attained it - and to many, it has felt like we were hovering over our success rather than moving through it with confidence and momentum, and on toward our next set of goals.

That was two years ago. Today, we can see that, at Rose-Hulman, we are on the move again.

We now have a new leadership team in place. Your cabinet is fully staffed - capable, dedicated, on your team, and on the move.

We have taken demonstrable strides toward our goal of enhancing diversity on our campus. We now have a Center for Diversity, and our center has a dedicated faculty director. We now have an African American serving as Department Head. We now have an Asian American serving as an Associate Dean. We now have a woman serving on our cabinet. We now have an African American serving on our cabinet. We now have a Hispanic American serving on our cabinet. And we have now awarded six full-ride scholarships for under-represented minority students in the class of 2015. We may not all agree on the how, when, who or what, but we, as an institute, set for ourselves an objective of increasing our diversity, and we are on the move.

We have taken a huge first step toward our goal of providing our students with a global perspective, and affording them international experiences by establishing our office of Global Programs. And we have welcomed an experienced educator as our Associate Dean of Global Programs. Long-awaited and never-funded, this critical office will eventually change the education experience of generations of Rose-Hulman students.

We have enhanced our library and student-learning center and extended our hours to better serve our students. We have expanded and refurbished our student study areas, and begun a program of systematically refurbishing our classrooms. And we are adding five intimate state-of-the-art classrooms for winter term because we are focused on our students - and we are on the move.

We have built a new 16,000 square foot student innovation center in just three months to centrally serve our student projects and student competition teams. We have broken ground on a new 240-bed residence hall because more of our students want to live where they study and because we believe their education experience is enhanced by living on campus - and because we are on the move.

We have launched a $287K feasibility study of our online education policy, challenges, opportunities and risks. We have enhanced our campus for generations to come by planting hundreds more trees. We now have a website that is commensurate with our reputation, a professional-quality Echoes now publishes on a regular schedule, and we will soon be announcing a new $500K gift of a bioscience laboratory that will be a greenhouse attached to the south side of Crapo Hall - because we are on the move.

We have attracted world-class Commencement Speakers to help us cap the world-class educational experience of our graduating students, and to extend the reputation of our school. And I am pleased to announce that Dr. Michio Kaku will accept our Excellence in Innovation Award when he visits our campus as our Schmidt Lecturer on September 23. And, he will help us cut the ribbon on our student innovation center on September 24. He heard, we are on the move.

In order that our Board of Trustees enjoys a more experienced and objective perspective on higher education and the challenges we face, we have added an academic (who happens to be an additional female member) to our trustees in Dr. Maria Vaz, the Provost of Lawrence Tech University, an AITU school. And we will be presenting another experienced academic for election to our Board at our Trustee's meeting in just a few weeks.

We have increased our fundraising by 30% in two years - 21% in the last year alone - and now we have new Vice President of Advancement, Rickey McCurry, to help us take it to the next level. We have increased our annual fund by 25% and our Phon-a-thon by 39% in one year. And we have increased our alumni participation in supporting our school by 35% - our alumni and donors also heard that we are on the move.

Now, we are in the early stages of our community-wide discussion of what will be the next great challenge, the next set of strategic goals that we can set for ourselves in order to maintain our focus and continue to lead the way in higher education. Over the next twelve months, the people in this room will be the key arbiters of the goals we set for ourselves. We will design a process that allows for your input, and your output, without distracting from the reason we are all here - the education of our students.

At Rose-Hulman, we are on the move; we don't have a choice. Higher Education is changing rapidly; the world is on the move. We must lead this movement in order to maintain our destiny. We must remain the best-in-class institution of our kind, with the best-in-class faculty and staff to serve our students - past, present and future. We will continue to deliver the best undergraduate education in engineering, math and science in an environment of individual attention and support - and we will stay on the move in order to assure it.

My hat is off to you for all you do. Welcome back. Welcome home.