In defining our culture of excellence, we’ve chosen to use the verb form – “We Progress.” I like that we made that choice. We Progress. We move forward. We get things done. And to deepen our understanding of this important word, we have used other verbs saying that we: Inspire Innovation, Increase Sustainability, Champion Diversity, Think Creatively, Foster Improvement.
These words lead me to a quote by playwright George Bernard Shaw, which happens to use the noun form of progress. “Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Progress is moving from where we are to a better place. Progress is changing what we are doing to a better way. Progress is making certain all people are full and equal members of our community. Progress is being willing to try something new, learn from a failure and trying again. Progress means we have to be willing to change, even if it means being uncomfortable.
Progress also means we learn from each other as we strive for excellence. And learning almost always means we have to change our minds, our way of thinking, our understanding of the world around us. This means the act of progressing is actually uncomfortable to some degree. Professor John Daly reminded us at the Academic Leadership Symposium last month that “people don’t resist change, per se, as much as they resist the loss attached to the change.”
Even as we resist change, we understand the need for it. Change can be difficult – just ask the staff members in charge of leading the change from Define to Workday. But this reality is why I think it is so important that we chose “Progress” as one of our words to define our culture of excellence. No matter how well we do something today, the needs of our students and our greater community will continue to change. Therefore we have to change. We have to progress to meet those needs.
Which takes us to Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations. He said, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” For us to Progress, we have to practice what we teach to our students. We have to learn, to grow in our work to progress toward excellence.
Let’s end with a final quote. Writer Khalil Gibran said, “Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.” Our goal is excellence and the way we progress to reach that goal is striving for excellence every day in everything we do. We progress to excellence by imagining another way and being willing to change what we do, even what we think to make progress.
I look forward to seeing us progressing and to seeing what progress we make!