President Edington Remarks, 2023 Convocation

President Edington Remarks, 2023 Convocation

President Edington Remarks, 2023 Convocation

Prepared Remarks

Thursday, September 21, 2023
University Auditorium

Good morning and thank you for that lovely introduction.

I am Dr. Maurice D. Edington, and I am honored and humbled to stand before you as the 10th President of the University of the District of Columbia. It is an extraordinary privilege to welcome you to UDC and to be welcomed as a new member of the Firebird family.

I am delighted to recognize our members of the Board of Trustees and Chairman Christopher Bell.

Thank you also to our Cabinet, deans, faculty, staff, and greater community; you have all welcomed my family with open arms. For that, First Lady Tonya Edington and I are grateful.

To our students, welcome to the best year yet at the University of the District of Columbia.

If you are a returning student, we are glad that you are committed to this great institution, and we are committed to ensuring that you succeed.

I want to extend a special greeting to our incoming students who are new here, just as I am. We are beginning this journey together in many ways, and I am excited for what lies ahead.

The start of the academic year is always exhilarating at a university, especially on an HBCU campus. Just as the television show would suggest, it is a “different world.”

In fact, I can still remember, like yesterday, my first time as an HBCU student.

As a first-generation college student, I remember the many faces. I remember the atmosphere and the sense of belonging I felt. I remember the pride.

When I arrived at Fisk University on a Greyhound bus a few decades ago, I only had a duffel bag, 400 dollars in my pocket, and a hunger to learn.

Growing up, it was considered a significant accomplishment in my home to graduate from high school. My family was poor, and my neighborhoods in Berkeley and Oakland California, were riddled with drugs and violence. My parents struggled with substance abuse; because of that, we suffered as a family.

I did not have direct access to an example of professional success back then, either. But the library became my second home. I visited the library every other day as a child, checking out books on math and science. I read 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And it was that thirst for learning that propelled me through high school and eventually to the HBCU that I credited with saving my life.

Fisk University, a historically black liberal arts institution in Nashville, was where I came alive. As I walked its halls, I became aware that an entire world was out there, far beyond my California neighborhood. A world full of opportunities that I could reach right out and grab.

I am here today because of my experience at an HBCU. Because of the time, energy, and investment, my professors poured into me, I have a debt to repay, and it starts with giving students the same opportunities that were given to me when I was a college student.

It’s a tradition at historically Black colleges and universities to begin the semester with a convocation. Convocation is a formal assembly. It comes from the Latin word “convocare,” meaning to call together.

As such, we unite today, galvanized to use the progress of our past as a springboard toward our future, which is maintaining the mission of being a public university for the public good.

And though we may seem like a mere collective of individuals –we represent ONE UDC.

While I have only been here for a short time, it’s already apparent that UDC is a hidden gem. At UDC, we are a close-knit community; we care for and help one another. When you step on our campuses, there is a sense of belonging. Our student pride is evident as you walk the halls.

Now, some of you may have heard me mention the phrase “One UDC.” I have used it quite a bit; I have said it at academic forums, town halls, walking around campus. In fact, I would not be surprised if the First Lady starts telling me I have been muttering it in my sleep.

One UDC-it is a great phrase. It is catchy. But what does it actually mean?

To me, it means a united front. It means that all UDC stakeholders are aligned and dedicated to advancement, academic excellence, and public service.

This includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, our university board of trustees, district government, corporate partners, community members, and funding agencies.

All aligned as One UDC.

The start of the new academic year brings optimism. You get a fresh start; students are eager and driven. Faculty are excited to engage with students after a long summer break. Staff are energized by the increase in activity across the campus.

But I want to let our students know you are our most valuable asset. Our university is only as great as the students within our institution. Here, you are more than a number, but a part of a distinguished family, and family looks out for one another. Your UDC family, the students, faculty, staff, and administrators are all invested in your success. You are home, and your UDC home is a safe space where you will be affirmed.

As you matriculate at UDC, this institution will challenge you to reach your full potential. We are proud of our remarkable team of faculty and staff, all of whom will make your field of study at this institution a worthwhile and memorable

experience. We are here to build you up and prepare you to meet the world’s challenges so that when you enter your respective fields, people know you are a Firebird, a UDC graduate.

The fall also represents a fresh start, an opportunity to commit to personal goals and get into a mission mindset: the mission to serve.

One of the characteristics that drew me to UDC was the legacy and mission of our institution. The University of the District of Columbia is focused on transformation. An urban land-grant institution whose roots date back to 1851, UDC prides itself on academic excellence and inclusivity. Here, we produce lifelong learners and scholars who understand the importance of giving back to society.

Firebirds are committed to serving the needs of the greater community. In fact, from day one, students are trained to serve. And when they graduate from UDC, they put that training into practice. We are “not waiting for an opportunity to make a change,” but our graduates innovate, advocate, and create change. That is UDC, A Public University for the Public Good.

As the only public university in our nation’s capital, we are proud of our commitment to being a community-oriented university that enrolls students from right here in the District of Columbia, from various cities, states, countries, cultures, backgrounds, socioeconomic classes, races, religions, ages, and stages in their lives.

Students: The mind, as we know, is a terrible thing to waste. Therefore, your best investment in life is getting an excellent education. At UDC, our goal is to provide you with one.

Still, you must maintain a seriousness of purpose by studying and completing all your curriculum requirements because college is about scholarship, and scholarship is centered around discipline.

I want you to remember that this is a journey, and you have boundless potential. As an institution committed to producing change agents.” I challenge you to think big and be great but always consider how to help others along the way.

To help guide you, we are prepared to meet you where you are –and will partner with you to take you where you want to go.

As President, one of my roles is to identify the strengths and opportunities at the university to help inform where we want to go and how we will get there. Since the summer, I have been laser-focused on doing just that—assessing and planning– so that this institution is recognized as a school that produces talented scholars with hearts to serve.

But I cannot do it alone. We must work together.

I want to thank my predecessors who laid the groundwork and strategically created pathways for this institution’s success. And while we have made progress and will continue to do so, we must build on that momentum.

As some of you know, I am a trained chemist. As such, I am results-oriented. So, when I sat down to strategically map out a bold, ambitious vision for the future of UDC, I focused on outcomes. –allow me a few moments to share my vision

I envision that UDC will be recognized for offering high-quality academic programs and providing an exceptional student experience. We will be a highly ranked HBCU, a first-choice institution for students, a top destination for employers and funding agencies, and an impactful partner and economic driver for the district and surrounding areas.

Achieving this requires focusing on student success by expanding access and resources in our academic programs. We must create opportunities and funding for research. We want to increase student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. We also want to focus on economic development and community partnerships.

We will launch a new university strategic plan to realize this vision in the coming months. This plan will provide the blueprint that defines the pathways to excellence for UDC. Specific initiatives will include:

  • Launching a strategic recruitment and enrollment management plan
  • Expanding and enhancing academic support services
  • Identifying and expanding our signature academic areas of excellence; and increasing research capacity
  • Developing articulation agreements with local education partners to create seamless pathways to obtain a UDC degree or certificate.
  • Fostering academic and workforce alignment
  • Increasing support for faculty and staff recruitment and retention initiatives
  • Aggressively exploring options to increase our student housing
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our business processes
  • Improving customer service
  • Upgrading campus facilities
  • Expanding fundraising efforts in support of our strategic priorities
  • Elevating the profile of the UDC brand through effective marketing and communications
  • Broadening our impact as a community partner
  • And enhancing alumni relations

As I stand here today, I want to acknowledge our great institution’s past, present, and future. UDC has come a long way since its inception, from being an established teaching college to becoming an institution that consistently produces agents of change” –lawyers, teachers, doctors, scientists, and social workers.

We have some of the best alumni in the nation who give back to our university and carry out our mission in all corners of the world. The overwhelming consensus is that UDC has a reputation for producing graduates who are always prepared.

But it is also time that we claim our identity. We will no longer remain hidden, but will boldly move forward, declaring our existence as a world-class academic institution.

We are not second-rate but students’ first choice –a high-quality public university for the people.

We are unique. Our university is located on campuses across D.C. And while we have distinct locations, we are connected as ONE UDC.

To our talented and diverse faculty and staff, as President, I am here to partner with you all to make this great university reach higher heights. We have a shared goal. I know you agree that we get up every day and come to work because we want this university to succeed, our students to grow, and the community to thrive.

Let us collaborate and partner with one another to build on the profound history of this institution, focusing on offering our students a high-quality education, growth, and thinking about expansion.

We are fortunate that we have the support of the district at UDC. The mayor, the city council, the board of trustees, sponsors, and neighbors are all so dedicated to our institution. We all advance as a community as we work together to serve the greater good. And community building is a cornerstone of UDC.

And having a strong community truly takes a collaborative effort.

So, to all gathered here, in-person and online, I will leave you with this illustration:

In the sport of track and field, there is the four-by-four relay. If you are familiar with the sport, you know it is one of the most exciting races. But what makes the race unique is that it requires maximizing one’s potential for the team to be successful. Each runner has been chosen because of their talent and ability to perform. After each sprinter runs their portion of the race, they must pass the baton to the next in line until the race is finished. You see, each runner depends on their teammate to fulfill their obligation so they all can win together.

We are also running a race here at UDC, and I encourage you all to participate. You have been chosen and understand your role and responsibility. You are charged with the task of performing to your best potential because people are depending on you. Students, we are passing the baton, and the goal is for you to cross that finish line together so that we may win as one” one family, one university, ONE UDC: A public university for the public good. Thanks, and have a fantastic semester.

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