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President Cordano gives State of the University address

February 4, 2016
By Phil Dignan

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On February 1, 2016, President Roberta “Bobbi” Cordano, the first deaf woman president of Gallaudet University, gave her first State of the University address to the campus community. 

In front of a packed Elstad Auditorium, an overflow crowd at the Jordan Student Academic Center, and a livestreamed audience, Cordano spoke about the tremendous impact of the Gallaudet community, its “spirit and strength,” and how to build upon its “great legacy” through a strategic plan focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion, bilingualism, and the Sixth Street Development Project.

“We are no longer that ‘little college for the deaf in NE DC.’ We are an internationally-recognized beacon of hope that is producing some of the best research, teaching, learning and community engagement,” said Cordano. “It’s an exciting time to be connected and involved with this great University.”

Cordano began by speaking of Sean Kerins, E-’90, from the Facilities Department, who passed away on January 23, 2016. “Many of you will remember him for his gregarious personality and his love for football… Our hearts go out to Sean’s family, friends, and coworkers.”

She also spoke about Snowzilla 2016 and the impression left on her by staff and student leaders on campus during the blizzard. She praised both the student-led volunteer effort to shovel snow on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods, and the Snowzilla fireside chats produced by the Student Body Government at House One. Cordano hosted nearly 50 people at her home, House One, after a power outage on the eastern side of campus.

“We do better when we are genuinely engaged with one another… and actually communicate and learn from each other,” said Cordano. “I have seen this at Gallaudet since I’ve arrived on campus, but Snowzilla shone a light on this community value in a wonderful way.”

Cordano went on to explain the strategic plan, saying that the planning, creation, and implementation of the plan will be a community effort involving a “shared commitment” from all Gallaudet stakeholders, and that the plan will build upon those previously developed.

Regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, Cordano credited the campus community with elevating dialogue about all forms of oppression. “This is a major priority assigned to me by, and for, the students and all of you,” said Cordano. “This is a task to which I am fully committed.”

With respect to bilingualism, Cordano wants to further define the vision of advancing deaf and hard of hearing individuals through both American Sign Language and English. Building upon the previous strategic plan, she sees a need for more clarity in defining the vision. “It’s one of our core values and is a key to our unique niche in the world. No one in the world can match the power of this community to build this future vision.”

With the Sixth Street Development Project, Cordano sees an opportunity to “extend and strengthen our philosophy of bilingualism into our community engagement work.” She also charged the community to ensure that the project makes a positive impact on Gallaudet.

In closing, Cordano sent a message exemplifying shared commitment and community. “As I have mentioned previously, it is really not my presidency. It’s our presidency for our Gallaudet. We will continue to connect, discover, and influence the world together.”

Click here to watch the entire State of the University address.

Photo by Zhee Chatmon.

4 February 2016
By Phil Dignan

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Phil Dignan

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