Faced with the “new reality” of the current economy and the ever-increasing need to instill strong skills and character in its students, President Carol Cartwright, in her Oct. 15 State of the University address, encouraged the University community to function like a top-notch jazz orchestra.
Referring to author and entrepreneur Max De Pree’s book Leadership Jazz, she noted that while jazz musicians improvise, it is always based on the chord charts and structure of the piece. “They work together, playing off and supporting each other within the key signature and timing of the music,” she said.
Just like in jazz, De Pree says, “performers in organizations are often called on to make their own variations on a tune, to improvise as part of a team, to innovate in concert with others.”
“That is a good description of what we will be called upon to do in our new reality,” the president said.
Its mission, vision and priorities help the University define its own reality, she declared, during a time when much is determined by outside forces. “Our challenge going forward is not just to survive, but to thrive in the face of these new realities,” she said.
One of those forces is the budget, which Cartwright described as a straightforward but very difficult process of balancing expenses with resources.
“We are actively looking for ways to reduce our expenses in all areas. We made some tough decisions to reduce expenses,” she said. New and creative efforts are also being made to boost enrollment, because “enrollment vitality equals fiscal sustainability.”
“One of the reasons I am so confident about our ability to take BGSU to new and higher levels of excellence is the completion of our Strategic Plan,” Cartwright said. The collaborative, University-wide process of creating the plan yielded seven priorities, which the president explored.
The first was “Create a distinctive, coherent undergraduate learning experience that integrates curricular and co-curricular programs.”
“We are taking a comprehensive approach to rethinking the curriculum and the undergraduate experience,” Cartwright said.
This effort has been named Connecting the Undergraduate Experience (CUE), and Cartwright said she believes it will be the “distinctive identity of BGSU. We must embrace and encourage co-curricular experiences for students so that when they are about to complete their degrees, they stand out from graduates of other institutions.
“On all fronts, students who have rewarding and stimulating co-curricular experiences are better prepared for future work environments than graduates who do not have such experiences,” Cartwright said. The key will be to intentionally “increase the likelihood that all students will take advantage of these practices.”
She encouraged everyone to participate in the CUE forums to be held later this month.
BGSU has made great strides within just one year, Cartwright said. She congratulated the University community for its achievement in identifying BGSU’s centers of excellence and for all the work in developing ambitious plans for rebuilding the campus residence and dining halls, and planning for new learning spaces.
On the eve of the University’s centennial, she said, it is important to realize that “we don’t look the way we do today because we insisted on doing things the same way all the time over the past 99 years. We’ve seen nearly a century of creativity, innovation and collaboration—almost 100 years of ‘education worth celebrating’—of talented performers improvising within the framework of a strong mission and set of values.”
For the full text of the speech, visit