The Webster/Kirkwood Connection | Webster University

The Webster/Kirkwood Connection

Kirkwood Rotary
December 9, 2010

Thank you, Pete.  Good afternoon everyone.  It is great to be here to meet with so many of our Kirkwood neighbors.  The Webster and Kirkwood communities have many strong connections, not the least of which is the legendary football rivalry!  

Is there any event that says community more than a healthy, respectful competition that has endured for so many years? In fact, people in Akron, Ohio told me about the annual game even before I moved here.

In January of this year, I had the opportunity to speak to the Downtown Rotary.  Now, I am in Kirkwood on the second leg of what appears to be Rotary Club Tour 2010 with my next stop at the Webster Rotary and the Crestwood/Sunset Hills Rotary in early 2011!

I enjoy these opportunities to speak to the Rotary Clubs and meet local business and civic leaders.  Rotary International’s theme for 2010/2011 is Building Communities/Bridging Continents and that only happens when you get out and not only tell your story, but hear everyone else’s story as well. By doing so, we can discover ways we can build strategic partnerships in order to nurture and grow our living, working and learning communities. 

Imagine how we, as neighbors, can explore opportunities to share our leadership and our resources and bring about creative collaborations between our spirited entrepreneurial communities and our rich academic communities for the greater good of our entire community.

Through this exploration, I am confident we will discover many similarities between the Rotary and Webster University.

Rotary’s membership has grown steadily over the years into a diverse group of business professionals with common goals to grow personally and professionally, develop leadership skills, and provide service to the community.  

Likewise, Webster has experienced significant growth in the size and scope of our student body, academic programs, worldwide campuses, and alumni, as well as our partnerships, collaborations, and commitment to community.

You embody the entrepreneurial spirit and display a willingness to explore possibilities and make them a reality.  Webster’s heart beats with the same fervor.

Along with your dedication to lifelong learning, we share other core values of the ideal of service to the community; a respect for and recognition of the diversity of people and occupations; and a commitment to responsible global citizenship and a deeper understanding of our global neighbors.

This commitment to global understanding and responsible citizenship is the basis of the guidelines proposed by Joe Cortright, a specialist in regional economic analysis, on “how cities and universities can play more influential roles” in our ever-growing global economy by moving “the knowledge economy forward.”

He lists four key dimensions to “achieve and maintain prosperity” which can serve as guidelines for future collaborations. 

• The first is to build talent through education –  Webster University can and does customize training programs for local companies and organizations and the community at-large,

• Number two is to foster innovation through an open and free flow of information -- We can combine your expertise in your respective areas with our wealth of curriculum knowledge to create programs that address issues of importance to the community,

• The third dimension is to make connections to the community and from the community to the wider world -- We can develop events that celebrate the many cultures and creative energy of our community and at the same time fulfill his fourth dimension...

• To capitalize on distinctiveness through an understanding of our unique characteristics and opportunities.

One unique characteristic of both the Kirkwood Rotary International District #6060 and Webster University is our extensive global reach. Rotary International includes 1.2 million members with 29,000 clubs in 161 countries and provides significant monetary support to student exchange programs around the world.  

Webster University has 137,000 alumni worldwide, over 21,000 students enrolled at 108 campuses and through online programs worldwide. 24% of our students have a study abroad experience.

Let’s consider Webster’s global connections as a basis for future partnerships and collaborations. 

I recently returned from a trip to Geneva, our oldest international campus, where I met with the Board of Trustees of Fondation Webster.  While there, I had the opportunity to meet some of the extraordinarily diverse group of faculty, staff and students on our campus. I was struck by the myriad of backgrounds, degrees, work experiences, and nationalities they represented and the value that those differences bring to the classroom and learning experience.  

Part of that group included our Global Master of Arts in International Relations students who had just arrived from Leiden on their multi-campus, 11-month program of international study. 

The second leg of my trip took me to Oman to attend the International Orchestra of Geneva concert, co-hosted by our Geneva campus, in honor of the Sultan’s 40th year of reign.  While in Oman, I hosted meetings with alumni from our Geneva campus who had travelled from as far as Mumbai, and were joined by many who had studied in London and Webster Groves.

A special note about that trip was my meeting with a former doctoral student of mine, Dr. Sana Sabeel Sulaiman Al-Balushi, from the Ministry of Education, who connected us with the Amideast Director in Oman who encourages Omani students to study abroad.  Dr. Sana also invited us to return to Oman to meet with the ministry of higher education.

The concert was magnificent.  The final number moved me when the International Orchestra of Geneva was joined by the Royal Omani Orchestra for a rousing rendition of Pomp and Circumstance, a traditional piece familiar to many Americans.  This was a fitting example of how music is a bridge across boundaries and cultures, although for an academic to sit still through pomp and circumstance is certainly challenging.

Every May, at the Muny in Forest Park, Pomp and Circumstance signals the arrival of a new class of Webster University global citizens, ready to go out and change the world.  We are confident they are ready because Webster has been their gateway to the world.

The opening of our Geneva campus in 1978 was the first step in the creation of Webster’s network of international campuses, partners and partnership exchanges in 10 countries. Along with our Geneva campus, Webster has campuses in…

Vienna, Austria where we are the only American university offering full Bachelor, Master and M.B.A. programs.

Webster University is the only American university in Central Europe to offer MBA programs in Slovakia and Hungary in partnership with local universities and our Vienna campus.

Leiden and Amsterdam, the Netherlands where we are the first and only American university with full programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

London, England where we are the largest provider of American masters’ degrees.

And Bangkok and Cha’am, Thailand where we are the only university  granting U.S.- and Thai-accredited degrees.

Webster University’s innovative dual degree program with Kansai University in Osaka Japan allows students to qualify simultaneously for two undergraduate degrees through a single four-year program.

Webster University’s exchange program with the Autonomous University in Guadalajara, Mexico, enables students to enroll in Spanish language and culture courses for a semester or academic year.

And you will find us in Shanghai, Shenzen, Chengdu, and Beijing, China.

Along with bringing Webster to the world through the opening of campuses and the establishment of partnerships, we have developed programs to give our students the opportunity to participate in an international learning experience…

• Through the variety of international study programs like study abroad mentioned earlier;

• Through the Global MBA and MA in International Relations that provide students with the opportunity to learn and interact in five countries on five Webster campuses overseas within one 11-month academic program.

• Through the International Business Exchange Program, a partnership with the State of Missouri Department of Economic Development, that has served almost 1,000 U.S. and international students during the past 25 years.

• Through Webster University’s innovative World Traveler Program that offers a round-trip airfare for students to obtain a study abroad experience.

Webster also brings the world to the U.S. For example:

- With a diverse faculty, fifty percent of whom have taught or studied abroad.

- With classrooms that are infused with the perspectives and experiences of students from cultures across the globe.  120 countries are represented in our classrooms.

- With the opening of the Confucius Institute at Webster University; providing Chinese language and culture programs to schools, businesses and local government.  Currently we are providing translation support to the Midwest China Hub Commission.

- With co-sponsorship of the World Affairs Council of the Ambassador Forum.  Just last week we welcomed the Ambassador of Indonesia, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal to St. Louis.  The Ambassador brought greetings from the President of Indonesia, a Webster alum.

These are just a few examples of how Webster is the connection to the global community for our students.  Our focus is on a steady exchange of cultures, ideas, and experiences among our campuses and our students to ensure our students will be transformed for responsible global citizenry and to be individually excellent.

But those far-flung campuses and students all share one thing in common.  They all look to St. Louis for leadership and direction.  It is, to a great extent, because of the excellence of education provided here on the main campus that degrees earned in Jacksonville, Florida, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Fort Bliss, Texas; in Vienna, Austria and London, England; in Shanghai, China and Bangkok, Thailand have value.  

Thus, it is critical to the growth of Webster University worldwide that Webster University in St. Louis continuously improve, just as we have done for almost 100 years.

In that regard, I want to touch briefly on an upcoming project that is of vital importance both to our University and our greater community. 

We have for many years worked as partners with our across-Lockwood-Avenue neighbor, Eden Theological Seminary.  Webster’s Religious Studies Department is housed, very appropriately, on the Eden campus.  For forty years we have shared library facilities, we share some classroom facilities and we share parking.  When you are the President of an institution like Webster University, you quickly learn that no academic issue is more important than parking!

Now, we are ready to take that partnership to the next level.  Eden and Webster have concluded an agreement for Webster to acquire 5.5 acres of the Eden campus, including the Luhr Library and two smaller buildings.  We plan to build an addition on the Lockwood side of Luhr Library and to convert the library into a new Science Building, which Webster sorely needs. Eden’s active library collections have been moved to Webster’s Emerson Library, and our two schools now share that library building.  

After the expansion, the Science Building still will be set back more than 100 feet from Lockwood.  As part of this agreement, Webster also has signed a 7-year lease on the playing fields at the corner of Lockwood and Bompart.

This is a “win-win-win” proposal for Eden, for Webster University and for Webster Groves.  We are sensitive to the concerns of our neighbors who are uneasy about expansion of the campus.  That is precisely why we are taking this approach.  

By working with Eden to expand our facilities on land already in use as a campus, we are able to expand and improve our physical plant without acquiring even one square foot of property that is not already committed to academic use. 

In addition to the new Science Building, our plan for the Eden property includes providing an official residence for the University president in the area of Lockwood and Joy.  

Once again, because of our partnership with Eden Seminary, we will be able to make this improvement to our physical facilities without acquiring as much as a foot of off-campus revenue-producing property. 

This kind of growth is important if we are to continue to be a University in which the St. Louis community can take pride.  And, it is the only way we can grow as we must while remaining completely respectful of our neighbors’ concerns over campus sprawl.  

Furthermore, it is the best way to assure that Eden Theological Seminary – an institution we all want to see endure far into the future – will have the resources it needs to continue its mission.  As I said a moment ago:  A “win-win-win.”  I hope you all agree. 

So, my travels begin and end here, in this community where Webster University and the Kirkwood Rotary are neighbors who share the same ideals and commitment to global understanding.  I hope this travelogue has given you a deeper understanding of Webster’s role as the gateway to the world for our students. 

Let us summon the spirit of the Rotary International theme and explore the possibilities and potential for collaborations between the Kirkwood Rotary and Webster University to bridge communities, cultures,  and continents.  I look forward to hearing your stories to discover how we can nurture and grow our living, working and learning community.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.  I leave you with global holiday greetings from the worldwide Webster community.