FDU President J. Michael Adams

Adams Sets Forth Global Mission in Inaugural Address

“Fairleigh Dickinson University is a center of academic excellence dedicated to the preparation of world citizens through global education. The University strives to provide students with the multidisciplinary, intercultural and ethical understandings necessary to participate, lead and prosper in
the global marketplace of ideas, commerce and culture.”
— Approved by the Board of Trustees
April 12, 2000

‘A New World Calls for New Visions: Adams Sets Forth Global Mission in Inaugural Address

Poised in front of a stellar image of the earth and with his sights riveted on the global horizon, FDU President J. Michael Adams declared an ambitious new mission for Fairleigh Dickinson University during his inaugural address on September 27.

“We proclaim that Fairleigh Dickinson is a center of academic excellence dedicated to the preparation of world citizens through global education.” A global education, he said, “is much more than having international campuses or exchange programs. It is an education that ensures that our students will be able to succeed in a world marked by interdependence, diversity and rapid change. A global education is one that provides knowledge and understanding of cultures, languages, geography and global perspectives. Most importantly, a global education is one that enables students to understand their roles in a global community and teaches them how their actions can affect the world.”

Dignitaries from education, business and the government, including New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, attended the inauguration ceremony, along with friends and members of the FDU community. In all, more than 1,000 people watched the unfolding of a new era. And, as a new mission arose, a new look for the institution also was introduced. But the heart of this day and the tone for FDU’s future was set firmly by the president’s message.

Adams, who began as president on July 1, 1999, stressed that the global vision builds on the University’s strengths and traditions and responds to important trends occurring worldwide. “Today, a new world calls for new visions,” he said, pointing out how the forces of technology and globalization have linked humans together in ways never before imagined.

“Humanity is now a shared enterprise. ... Corporate leaders tell us that the next workforce generation will need to be able to function as easily abroad and across different cultures as in this country. We will graduate students who will flourish in this world. We are going to immerse students in diverse cultures. To do so, we must make understanding global issues part and parcel of the learning experience. At the same time, we will instill in students a sense of adventure as well as a sense of responsibility to make the world a better place.”

Above all else, he said, FDU students will be known for two things:

1) The understanding that just because you are different from me does not mean you are wrong, just different; and

2) The understanding that if I want to communicate with you, I must look at the world through your eyes.”

Fulfilling the Vision

To begin implementing Fairleigh Dickinson’s new vision, several initial steps have been taken. Foremost among these is a distance-learning addition to every student’s program. “Effective with the incoming class of 2001, Fairleigh Dickinson will be the first traditional university in the world to recognize the Internet as a fundamental learning tool by requiring every undergraduate to participate in one distance-learning course each year.”

Also, the faculty has committed to incorporate global issues into every course and classroom, the Office of Global Education was created to coordinate and support a wide variety of campus-based and world-based initiatives, and the Institute for Global Commerce will be launched January 1 and will focus on the relationship between world commerce and world peace.

In addition, FDU’s Center for Global Teaching and Learning was created last spring, in part to support the New Jersey schools world languages mandate. Furthermore, said Adams, “Next fall, the world newspaper of record, The New York Times, will be delivered to each freshman’s door, and its reading will be integrated across the curriculum.”

The next decision, added Adams, is to dedicate “part of the undergraduate tuition to provide a plane ticket for each student to journey abroad. Every student will live and learn in a different culture.” And, Adams proposes to “do away with ‘diversity day,’ and instead integrate issues of diversity into the ongoing activities and events of campus life. Learning about diversity is a process, not an event.” As Adams pointed out in his comments, “Diversity remains the distinctive feature of our time.”

To offer a global education, Adams said, “we need to support our faculty to become global resources and our campuses to become hubs of global education initiatives. We have to adopt a global spirit; a mindset that says we live in a world without walls — made possible by advances in technology, and made necessary by needs that do not end at borders.”

Adams discussed the importance of understanding the changes taking place in the world today, changes often lumped together under the term “globalization.” “At Fairleigh Dickinson we recognize that globalization is an important way to understand the world. Groundbreaking developments in communication and transportation technology, the spread of information, production, finance and trade, all bring billions together from remote regions of the globe ... We have new neighbors both far and near. They are as far as Sri Lanka and as near as the computer screen.”

While Adams said globalization offers “immeasurable benefits,” it also possesses destructive capabilities and is leaving many behind. The challenges range from tremendous economic disparities to environmental exploitation and human rights violations.

“The answer, though, is not to pull the plug on globalization but to direct it so it offers broad benefits for everyone; we must combine the forces of a new world with an insistence on humanity. This is not a new problem. Every age has had to find the right balance between using the tools of progress and cherishing that which makes us human. Globalization makes the balance more critical because the tools are so much more powerful and humanity is so fragile.”

Building on the Past

In providing students with a global education, Adams emphasized that he is simply following a path laid out by the tradition of the University. “The idea as expressed by our founder Peter Sammartino was to create an institution that was to be ‘of and for the world.’ Cultural and global awareness were indeed hallmarks of that junior college in 1942, and I maintain that the foundation of our future lies in keeping faith with our past.”

That rich past has included many international programs and dimensions. In 1965, for example, Fairleigh Dickinson become the first American university to open its own campus in England, and now also has a branch campus in Tel Aviv, Israel, and extensive relationships with institutions in places such as Turkey, Switzerland, Korea and Poland, to name a few.

“Our global reputation is illustrated by the number of students from abroad who study at Fairleigh Dickinson University. With more than 800 students from 70 countries, FDU ranks 18th in the United States in international enrollment among our Carnegie peer group.”

Adams says the University has long provided both a physical and intellectual gateway to the world. Within close proximity to the world’s unofficial capital, New York City, the University offers access to “the center of world finance and business, unequaled cultural offerings and human diversity, and the ideas and technologies that are shaping the world.”

Fairleigh Dickinson also has offered innovative programs with a global dimension. For example, the quarterly publication, The Literary Review, established in 1957, is known worldwide for devoting entire issues to contemporary writing from specific nations, cultures and languages. “Or look at our renowned global MBA program or the marine biology and environmental science programs in Hawaii and Spain. And of course, there is our nationally emulated Core curriculum, which includes a strong global issues component.”

Adams said, “Now we are ready — and I would say we have a responsibility — to do more, to build on our history, accomplishments and advantages. We have a responsibility to create global citizens by offering a global education. That is our history. That is our future.”

Immediate Impressions

Members of the University community who attended the ceremony were very supportive of Adams’ plan and FDU’s new mission. Kenneth Vehrkens, BA’69 (T-H), MAT’70 (T-H), MA’74 (T-H), dean of New College of General and Continuing Studies, said, “He is building on the past and pointing us in the right direction for the future. This vision was Peter Sammartino’s vision. As someone who has been here more than 30 years, I’m overjoyed that this is the direction he has chosen. We have been a leader in this area, and now we will fulfill our vision of being the leader in global education.”

Kenneth Greene, assistant provost on the Florham-Madison Campus, agreed that Adams has a solid foundation on which to build. “The more you think about it, the more you realize how much we already do [in terms of providing a global education]. This vision re-emphasizes what the University has already been doing.”

But, he added, while global initiatives have been created before, they were never coordinated throughout the University. “This vision gives us a guiding principle for all our actions.” And, as he observed, “it sure fits the times.”

Faculty in attendance overwhelmingly endorsed the direction. M. Patricia Warunek, professor of biological sciences, and the director of the University Honors Program on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, said, “It’s heartening to see our global aspects being emphasized. This will better prepare our students for the future.”

Patricia Bazán-Figueras, associate professor of languages and chair of the modern languages and literature department on the Florham-Madison Campus, added, “He’s giving us a sense of direction more than ever. It’s vital for students to be exposed to different cultures.”

Robert Vodde, director of the criminal justice program on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, added, “I’m very encouraged. President Adams has been an exciting agent of change, and he has been able to lift all our expectations. He brings an exciting vision and we’re very energized by this direction.”

Student leaders equally praised the global vision. Charles Davis, the president of the Student Government Association (SGA) on the Teaneck-Hackensack Campus, said, “President Adams has brought a lot of excitement. I agree with his remarks about globalization. The students think he’s really hitting the nail on the head and that he has a lot of great ideas. In the 21st century, he’s exactly what we need. If we can rally the community around this vision, this will work wonders for the University.”

Tedd Konya, the president of the Florham-Madison Campus SGA, also was enthusiastic about the president’s ideas. “What he has planned is really great. It sets us apart from other institutions.” Konya added that students will welcome the increased opportunities to travel and learn about other cultures.

‘A New World Calls for New Visions: Adams Sets Forth Global Mission in Inaugural AddressAlumni too agreed that this is the right move and the right man to lead the University. Ronald Cannella, MBA’65 (R), MA’67 (T-H), said, “This is the only direction to go. Anyone who doesn’t [incorporate global perspectives] is going to be left behind. [Adams] is building on great men. The University is very lucky.”

FDU trustee William O’Neill, BS’67 (T-H), DDS’70 (T-H), added that Adams’ combination of passion and intellect will make this vision a reality. “From his very first day, he has been able to rally people around him. He has captured something from the past that we all are yearning for again.”

Launching Into the Future

While Adams has helped launch several initiatives and is working with colleagues on other programs, he has often said that implementing the global vision is up to the entire University community. “No single experience can create a global citizen. The answer lies in the sum of our activities; those with a long tradition, those recently conceived and those yet to be dreamed.

“I invite you, I urge you — our community of faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends — to join the adventure. In your intellect and in your imagination lie the future steps that will provide Fairleigh Dickinson University students with a global education. The heart of this vision will be in the difference that each of us can make. Our mission is accomplished, our goal is reached only through your efforts.”

The complete text of Adams’ inaugural address can be found on the Web.

Adams added, “We all must adopt a world view, see beyond our differences and expect the most, from ourselves and from our students. Our attitude must be that we are preparing the agents who will change the world. If we expect that our students will change the world, they will.”

Fairleigh Dickinson’s sixth president concluded that as individuals and as an institution, “our future is still to be written, our reach is still to be determined. As global citizens, as a global institution we have an obligation to extend our reach, to go beyond the ordinary and seize the extraordinary.”

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