Transforming Lives and Enriching Communities | Webster University

Transforming Lives and Enriching Communities

Breakfast with the Gazelles
St. Louis, Mo.
April 27, 2011

Gazelles – entrepreneurs and smaller firms with tremendous growth, a knack for strategy and risk taking.  They represent the majority of small business employment and financial growth in the U.S.

I am intrigued by the term “gazelles.”

Thirty years before this term was coined, a group of women in St. Louis opened a “start up” teaching and learning institution called Webster College.  They accelerated their growth at a phenomenal pace through a focused strategy and considerable risk taking. 

This remarkable institution became Webster University in the 70’s and continues the legacy of responsive action to unmet educational needs set in motion by those gazelles   the Sisters of Loretto.

It was almost a century ago when the Sisters founded one of the first women’s colleges west of the Mississippi.

Providing the opportunity for women to play leadership roles and prepare for careers.

The Sister’s entrepreneurial approach contributed to economic development by transforming lives and enriching communities.

Their mission lives on as we continue to identify and provide educational opportunities to underserved communities to become what we are today -

A Tier-1, private, non-profit US based university with a network of international residential campuses.

We have 107 campuses, 56 military installations, and 19 fully online programs serving over 21,000 students.

Universities have a significant impact on the quality of life in a community. Institutions with different characters, missions, programs, strengths, and links to community are an advantage for a region.

An ongoing relationship with a robust higher education community provides a wealth of resources for academic perspectives in all areas of urban renewal and growth.

Universities are assets and anchor institutions that should be reflected in identity, branding, and marketing of a region and community.

Joe Cortright, a specialist in regional economic analysis, states in his white paper, The City-University Partnership, that “the fundamental economic role of a university is adding to the stock of human capital by producing a better-educated citizenry.”

When we think of communities and regions whose identity is closely linked with higher education, we think of Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh— because of the variety of public and private institutions with diverse missions and students.

We think of their impact on quality of life—culturally, intellectually, and economically.  And we think of their attractiveness to employers, to employees, to new generations of families, your professionals, and to veterans.

Like Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, the St. Louis Region has a significant number of higher education institutions.

According to the RCGA -

• 30 four-year colleges and universities

• With close to 120,000 total enrollment

These are important numbers when you consider Cortright's theory on the importance of a better-educated citizenry.

Recent headlines caught our eye at Webster.  The first was “Young, educated adults surge in downtown St. Louis”

According to a report for CEOS for Cities, St. Louis experienced an 87% jump in the number of young educated adults living in our region's core. This count is for the years 2000-2009. Ours was the biggest increase of large cities in US, nearly double our previous numbers.

This is a good sign for the city and for economic growth. According to the report, educated adults “boost talent” and often start their own businesses.

Another headline from the RCGA publication, What’s What in St. Louis read, “St. Louis is the 10th largest college town in America based on degrees awarded.”

These are important developments in the growth and potential of our knowledge-based population.

St. Louis has a wealth of resources to reenergize economic development.  I want to talk about ONE  Webster University.

What is Webster University’s role in transforming lives, which in turn, enriches communities? 

We are proud of our entrepreneurial contributions to our communities locally and globally.  Let’s look at our local contributions

We play a significant role in the arts community

We have developed and maintained long-standing partnerships with our region’s anchor institutions - Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

In 2001 we saved the Community Music School from closing and built its new home on our Webster Groves campus. 

Performances – music, dance, Conservatory, Symphony around the community, Chinese Dance Troupe, Missouri’s own poet laureate, David Clewell

Highly regarded Webster Film series

The impact of the arts in the St. Louis region from the 2007 Regional Arts Commission report was significant.  As a $561 million industry, the arts are an important part of economic development.

Webster provides an intellectual component to the community in a number of ways  

We are a haven for intellectual pursuit—ranging from international relations to graphic design to global sustainability.

We provide a fertile environment for the generation of ideas.

Webster is in the business of teaching and learning for purposeful careers.

The Webster University Press publishes academic works of high quality. Our most recent publication is 1st collaborative faculty and student publication—Kodachrome End of the Run: Photographs from the Final Batches.

Webster has a wealth of expert faculty who are frequently called upon to contribute commentary and analysis on current issues.

We host a variety of events on our campuses 

Lectures – yesterday, Sam Palmisano, Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer of IBM spoke at Webster as part of his IBM Centennial Tour.

Webcasting panel discussions on current issues and events to worldwide audiences.

Confucius Institute provides Chinese language and culture instruction in schools and translation and culture protocol consultation to The Big Idea – Global Multi-Modal Logistics Center.

The Holden Public Policy Forum features lectures from policy makers.

The growing, evolving partnership with Eden Theological Seminary an integral part of our intellectual future.

We look forward to advancing our mutual cultural missions through our partnerships with the Holocaust and the Science Center.

Cultural and intellectual contributions of a university have an impact on the quality of life in a community.  At Webster we also enhance the quality of life with the diversity of our student body, many of whom live, work and shop in the region.

For example, our impact statement for the city of Webster Groves includes these facts:

We are the city’s largest employer.

We have provided $331,000 tuition for Webster Groves city employees since 1999.

Annually, our faculty, staff and students generate $118.8 million in economic impact to Webster Groves.

As you know, Webster University has a major presence downtown, just a few blocks from here.  I have heard the stories of Webster’s leadership role in the Old Post Office project and know it was a remarkable seven-year effort.  The outcome is a stunning building that has been a catalyst for growth and the revitalization of downtown

For Webster it is another example of taking education to the students—meeting their needs where they are. Since opening we consistently enroll over 550 students from all around the region each semester. 

The Old Post Office is also the home of four other partner institutions, the Confucius Institute, Diversity Awareness Partnership, World Affairs Council,  Literacy Investment for Tomorrow for Missouri

The reports from Cortright and the CEOs for Cities highlight the importance of an educated citizenry in the revitalization of a community.

This concept was supported locally in the May 4, 2010 editorial on economic development in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bob Reynolds and Danny Ludeman identify the “need for educational opportunities for individuals who did not finish college to get their degrees and bolster our talent pool.”

Webster can and does continue the mission to identify and provide innovative educational approaches to encourage a return to the classroom to reinforce our knowledge based talent pool—on location in the community and the workplace, including online programs.

We are part of CAP – College Access Pipeline Project, an initiative to increase the proportion of students in the St. Louis region who earn higher education degrees to 50% by 2020.

Webster specializes in creating innovative programs to accommodate the needs of the communities we serve using the basic principles of optimizing time, managing costs, minimizing risks, and ensuring global academic excellence.

For example,

The BJC Webster Cohort allows candidates who have been recommended for cohort to earn advanced degrees while staying in their current roles – minimize risk

The classes are convenient and the schedules are flexible– optimize time

The tuition rate is negotiated with BJC to be affordable – manage costs

To date, 95 students have earned MBA’s through the cohort.

JoAnn Shaw, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer says this about the program: (quote on card in front binder pocket)

“The coursework is relevant and can be applied immediately in the workplace. The quality of the teaching, the convenient class schedule, and the encouragement of fellow Cohort graduates inspire others to participate in the program who otherwise may have never considered pursuing an advanced degree."

"BJC is our region's largest employer.  The BJC/Webster University Cohort is a program that plays a significant role in our recruitment and retention efforts.”

The BJC Cohort is one example of Webster University’s commitment to providing innovative programs to reinforce our human resources for economic development.

Another example is the Entrepreneurship Certificate Program. This program provides entrepreneurship education for undergraduate business and non-business students who want to open a “start up” in their field of study; for example, a photography student who wants to open a studio or a science student who has an idea for an environmental impact company.

Webster is also a founding member of the Innovate St. Louis Venture Mentoring Service and the St. Louis Regional Entrepreneurship Educators, organizations that help educate business owners.

The Entrepreneurship Certificate Program is going global this fall.

Efforts to reinforce our knowledge-based population must be a global program.  This is what sets Webster University apart from the rest. 

Our entrepreneurial efforts abroad began in 1978 with the opening of our first global campus in Geneva, providing an English-speaking education to Americans working at the United Nations and their children.

Not long after Geneva opened, our international network of campuses soon took shape

Vienna ’81 – 30th anniversary this year, Followed by Leiden, London, Thailand, Japan, Hungary, China – Shanghai (1996), Shenzhen, Chengdu, Beijing

It is our mission to make a global educational experience accessible to all of our students.  Currently, 45% of our undergraduate student body study abroad. That is well above the national average of 3%.

Our World Traveler Program provides round-trip airfare for our undergraduate students to study at one of our international campuses.

The Global MBA and MA-IR are unique cohort programs that take the students to our Leiden, Geneva, Vienna, London, Shanghai, and Bangkok campuses and China.

We also provide opportunities for faculty and staff mobility.

The International Business Internship Exchange Program connects companies and interns from across the globe.  In partnership with the State of Missouri Department of Economic Development, Webster provides students with the opportunities to be fully immersed in a country and a company.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has participated in this program.

Amie Gianino, IBIE alum and Senior Global Director said this about the program, (quote is in the front pocket of the binder) “These very bright students come to us fluent in another language, able to use a variety of software tools and familiar with today’s technology…”

Every region benefits from its anchor institutions.  Webster University offers a diversity of resources and opportunities beyond St. Louis and the region.

Now is the time to reexamine the role of our teaching and learning institution in this region’s strategy for economic development. 

We at Webster want to partner with you to do what Webster does best and put St. Louis on the map.  I’ve heard that some think you can see the Great Wall of China from space.  Not sure that’s true.  I do believe, however, you will see the arch from space!

Webster has a rich history and tradition of responsive solutions to the educational needs in the communities we serve.

We seek out, form and maintain viable relationships with institutions and organizations.

We develop relevant programs for purposeful careers matched to industry and global needs to reinforce community talent pools.

Our programs have had an impact on reinforcing our human resources.

One population we are dedicated to is the Military.

You will find Webster on 56 military installations where 3,500 currently study with another 1,300 choosing the online option.

We are proud to claim 202 Generals and Admirals and eight 4-star generals as alumni.

We are rated a Top Ten School for Military Students by Military Advanced Education magazine

We anticipate growth in this area as the number of military veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan increases. This new generation of veterans will receive benefits under the new GI Bill® that will provide education funds for the veterans and, in some cases, their families as well. 

We are committed to defining and becoming a first choice in military education and to support making this a military-friendly region.

Toward that end, we are a part of RAFFT, the Regional Alliance for the Troops. The mission is to support our troops, raise awareness of the organizations that support them and improve synergy with the corporate community.

Our vibrant university re-energizes a community with an influx of young people, new idea generation, arts and education opportunities

We have contributed to the revitalization of communities through our campus communities, renovations, public art, and much more.

The time is now to reexamine our strengths as a community and to see ourselves differently. 

And, as the RCGA considers ways to restage St. Louis as a center of commerce and economic development and moves forward with The Big Idea to re-internationlize the city as a “vigorous cargo gateway,” consider restaging Webster, a recognized, innovative leader in global education, as a viable and relevant partner in these efforts.

With me today are several leaders on our staff.  I will introduce them and encourage you to connect with them at the end of this program.

Thank you all for being here today and for your leadership.

A treasured mentor of mine once said, “Leaders invite others to the table.”  Thank you for inviting me to yours.  I welcome the opportunity to host you at ours very soon and for us together to build a welcoming and inclusive table that assures our collective success.