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President Cordano gives 2018 State of the University Address

January 26, 2018
By Andrew Greenman, ’10


If you missed President Cordano’s State of the University address, you can watch it here. You can also read the full address at Medium, a new blog that features Gallaudet news.

President Roberta J. Cordano gave her State of the University (SOTU) address on January 23, 2018, concentrating on three key themes: impactful, thoughtful, and pragmatic, tying in with both short- and long-term strategic plans for the university. Cordano, giving her third SOTU address, explained her vision for the university with #GUVista2020, which concentrates on community hubs, enhancement of academic and community vitality, optimization of resources, and ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence.

An estimated 400 members of the Gallaudet community attended the address, which was streamed live via the Gallaudet livestream channel as well as Gallaudet’s Facebook page. Bison Song team members Tuesdae Dunklin, Chelsea Hilaire, and Shellane McKitty, opened the address with the traditional Bison song.

“Everyone’s contributions are important and valued,” said Cordano, after introducing the three key themes. “All together, the collective impact of our work is powerful.”

She then led a moment of silence to recognize those who the community lost in 2017, as an acknowledgement of the contributions they gave to Gallaudet. Following this moment of silence, Cordano explained the three themes and how they tied in with the strategic plans for the university.

“We are on a journey toward transformation,” said Cordano. “What affirms the possibilities of transformation is citizenship and belonging, both which are critical to success. Citizenship measured by our commitment to our collective success for the common good of Gallaudet University and the global signing communities. This is happening at Gallaudet. We are citizens of Gallaudet and will rise to the opportunities that await us, through measured and strategic steps.”

Cordano described the short-term strategic plan, which is already in progress and runs through 2020.

“For our community-instead of jumping ahead, we decided that we needed to focus on our community’s basic needs before moving on to big transformation,” said Cordano. “Everything that we do together will build the collective impact of improving our conditions for launching our long term transformative vision for Gallaudet, our Gallaudet Vista.”

She recapped the six priorities that would be concentrated on, which would serve as a bridge between the past and present to the future Gallaudet. By 2019, Cordano expects to have a design in place for building the University’s collective long-term strategic plan. To see the full strategic plan, click here.

Cordano provided several key updates around Gallaudet’s budget, operations, and academics.

Effective January 29, the university will review and renew its budget, called a budget reconciliation, to identify areas of potential efficiencies and savings which can be put into smart investing for the future.

“We need to be smart with the resources we currently have and continue to look ahead to where we want to be, so that we can wisely invest for the future,” said Cordano.

She outlined several changes, including the discontinuation of course fees, effective for the FY 2018 tuition, revision of criteria for loan balances related to re-enrolling at Gallaudet, investing more than a million dollars to improve dormitories, implementation of cultural competency training for Residence Life staff, electronic Time & Labor procedures to increase efficiency while saving money, and further engagements with Congressional members and Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education.

Cordano also thanked the Center of Bilingual Teaching and Learning (CBTL) and the Bilingual Task-Force for their leadership, critical components of priority one of the strategic plan.

“We know there is no other place like Gallaudet and our ASL/English bilingual mission is the soul of our university,” said Cordano. “This progress is daily evidence of ongoing cultural transformation. Faculty are focused on adaptive learning to meet learning styles. This is especially pragmatic in fostering our students’ learning uniqueness and ensuring success.”

Cordano recognized two examples of the community’s effort towards making Gallaudet a better place. She recalled the hosting of seven Mandela Washington Fellows – African emerging leaders in June 2017; as well as the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) starting 2018 with a solid framework to guide the development of an institutional EDI strategic plan that will be completed by September 2018, in accordance to priority one. Dr. Elavie Ndura, vice president of EDI, has also restructured the Office of Diversity and Equity for Students (ODES) into the Office of Multicultural Student Development and Mentoring to create collaboration and integration among programs.

“This will expand the impact of our strategic goals for our students, faculty, and staff. We succeed when every individual feels they are being connected and valued. Citizenship is an investment into the collective community; belonging is a sense of a healthy existence.”

She also shared an update with priority six, relating to the Living, Well-Being, and Belonging Initiative (LWB).

Effective immediately, the university will focus on three key areas: food security, Persona-Non-Grata (PNG) review, and community hubs.

Food security:
A committee will be led by Christine Gannon, director of Health and Wellness Programs, engaging Ndura and Dr. Thomas Horejes, associate provost of Student Success and Academic Quality. They will analyze the current situation and develop recommendations to improve experiences of students related to dining options on campus, with an opportunity for students and community members to be involved.

PNG review:
The review of the PNG process is being led by Ndura and Ted Baran, director of Department of Public Safety (DPS). They are in the process of instituting a panel that will review all PNG cases under DPS, both currently and moving forward. This panel will also develop a package of recommendations for our future system, that both considers the best practices for higher education and our unique community. The thoughtful work will be underway this spring and summer semester, with transparency and updates to the community throughout it all. By September 30, 2018, tools should be available to assist in redesigning the new PNG system.

Community hubs:
There is great opportunity for the community to be involved and have big ownership stakes on campus. Community hubs, led by community members including Student Body Government (SBG) and Graduate Student Association (GSA), will be supported by Eyob Zerayesus, program manager for Campus Activities, and Carl Pramuk, ’84, associate dean of the Student Center. Hubs will develop recommendations to be delivered to the executive team on collective experiences. The first recommendations from these community hubs are due at the end of April.

Cordano also shared upcoming events in 2018 that would recognize the 30-year anniversary of Deaf President Now (DPN), and the 200-year anniversary of deaf education in the country through American Sign Language.

She emphasized the importance of recognizing each individual who ensured said movements were successful. “Just as Martin Luther King Jr. was a visible leader, it took the action and commitment of thousands of other individuals to accomplish a powerful civil rights advancement. Historical moments like DPN represent the core of what we are.”

Cordano closed her address with an inspirational message.

“You are leading the way, in creating cultural change in the world and it starts at home here at Gallaudet,” said Cordano. “As Gallaudet citizens, we are capable of rising to the vista ahead of us. We invite you to be thoughtful, pragmatic, and impactful, so let’s get down to serious business!”

Bison Song Team (Buff sign position)

Bison Song team members Tuesdae Dunklin, Chelsea Hilaire, and Shellane McKitty, are shown performing the Bison song.

Bobbi thumbs up on stage under 3 themed words on PP

President Cordano demonstrates the three themes with a thumbs up.

Members mingling with lunch boxes

Community members were given their complimentary lunch boxes, provided by Bon Appétit, and mingled after the address conclusion.

All photos by Zhee Chatmon.

26 January 2018
By Andrew Greenman, ’10


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Andrew Greenman, ’10

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