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Spring is a time for celebrating our graduates and our most recent commencement exercises yielded many exciting firsts for our ASU community. In addition to welcoming 15,000 new graduates to the ranks of our alumni (11,000 undergraduate students and 4,800 graduate students), ASU also recognized the first graduating cohort of 150 students from its Public Service Academy. Launched in 2015, the PSA is the first program of its kind in the nation and draws from the ROTC model to provide public service and leadership training skills to civilian learners.
We proudly welcomed more than 500 new and inspirational graduates from our Starbucks College Achievement Program, bringing our total number of SCAP alumni to 3,000 in five years, and hosted a special reunion of the members of the Class of 1969, who returned to ASU for their 50th anniversary.
Our honorary degree recipient, author and New York Times columnist David Brooks, wisely stressed to students the importance of their emotional lives, particularly the difference between “happiness” and “joy,” and of investing themselves in the pursuit of the latter. To truly appreciate the special experience of ASU commencement, I invite you to watch his address and the short video below that highlights our outstanding graduates and their families, and the emotion and impact of an ASU education.
The end of the academic year is also a time to connect with our graduates, reflect on our service and progress, and consider what more we could and should be doing as a university.
I traveled to California recently at the invitation of Stanford University for an in-depth public interview about ASU’s evolution and the role of innovation in the future of higher education. I discussed our commitment and process to enhance access to quality education, and how we are using technology to serve on-campus and online students, as well as learners beyond traditional enrollment, going forward. When asked why more institutions are not following our path, I explained that many institutions are averse to risk and change.
While settling for the status quo is an easier path, the reality is that the higher education landscape is changing rapidly beneath our feet, and colleges and universities must be nimble and imaginative to remain effective and relevant. We also have a responsibility to revisit our institutional values regularly and apply our talent, tools and resources to meaningfully address societal challenges at scale.
Along these lines, ASU’s executive team convened this week for our annual leadership retreat, an intense series of activities and conversations focused on what a high excellence and more broadly accessible institution could look like in the future. We delved into the relationship between design, perpetual innovation and social transformation, and exchanged ideas about how ASU can continue to demonstrate leadership and service to learners at all levels and of all ages. I look forward to sharing more about this process at it advances
Finding answers to society’s most complex issues requires collaboration, which is why I joined our partner New America in Washington, D.C., to co-host the fifth annual Future Security Forum , formerly known as the Future of War Conference. This daylong event convened representatives from academia, journalism, government, business and the military to delve into critical topics related to national defense and international security. The forum’s agenda included separate conversations on the roles that space, cyberwarfare and the U.S. armed forces, among others, will have in meeting forthcoming security and defense challenges.
In my opening remarks, I discussed the imperative need for new outcomes and the inability to generate new solutions from old mindsets and outmoded approaches. In order to tackle challenges of increasing frequency and complexity, all sectors have a responsibility to think in terms of design, purpose and continuous improvement. If we are to successfully navigate our aspirational future – for example, one where two global economic superpowers can coexist without military conflict – there must be a collective will to evolve new ideas and designs for organizations, policies and innovations.
Academia can play an important part in this process by facilitating constructive dialogues, collaborations and knowledge creation that supports solution-making. ASU is proud to help move this work forward, and I invite you to view the forum, including my remarks and my interview with the outgoing Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Heather Wilson, for a look at some ways we are demonstrating leadership.
After more than 16 years of cooperation, I am pleased to share that our partnership with Mayo Clinic is stronger than ever. Over the years, we have worked together to advance research, dual degree programs, nursing education, seed funding, patient care and joint faculty appointments, among other endeavors. All with the shared goals of demonstrating collaborative impact, better outcomes and the ability to prepare new health care leaders and concepts.
Most recently, we celebrated two new and exciting expansions in our alliance, the first being the official groundbreaking for what will be the first building of the Health Futures Center, a shared facility that will house nursing and other education offerings and biomedical engineering and informatics research labs. The second is the launch of our MedTech Accelerator, a program that offers early-stage medical device and health care tech startups with business development assistance. The accelerator, which just announced its first class of six companies, will also reside in the Health Futures Center.
We are proud of the Alliance’s progress and appreciative of the city of Phoenix for its help in bringing these efforts to fruition. There is much work ahead, but we are excited to move forward as an innovation hub dedicated to better health outcomes.