Like many of you I read higher education blogger Alex Usher every morning. On November 2, he highlighted the crucial importance of institutional Sagas, or storytelling, in shaping culture and driving change on campus.
I’ve been thinking about the Carleton story/culture for over a year now, since the day the ad for a new president was posted. It is a remarkable story that has not an ounce of the two main pitfalls identified by Usher: self-satisfaction, which leads to stagnation, or a weak culture.
Unlike many of our peers, we were not founded by a 19th century religious order. We sprung into existence in 1942, amidst the chaos of the Second World War. Our founders envisioned education as a powerful force for good, both for individuals and for the Ottawa community, at a time of immense unrest.
From the very beginning, the Carleton Saga has been one of resilience and of purpose. It is captured powerfully in the Here for Good ethos that has emerged from our ongoing philanthropic campaign. Here for Good is a statement of values; values that define what we do in two complementary ways.
When you say you are here for good, it means that you are here to stay, that you will stand your ground no matter what. It’s a statement of resilience in the face of the difficulties and challenges of life. So important in our complex, fast-paced world.
When you say you are here for good, it also means that we are here to serve the greater good: social, economic and common good. This is a statement of purpose.
Resilience and purpose. This is why I came to Carleton. For both individuals and communities, and arguably for societies as well, these values are the path to a self-determined, meaningful life and to gratitude.
Older institutions, unless they are very careful, run the risk of having their prestige based on exclusion and a tradition anchored in past glories. Conversely, we can take great pride that the Carleton Saga is inclusive, and resolutely turned towards the future.
Towards the end of his blog, Usher says: “The Saga conditions the ability and willingness of an institution to change its culture and hence, is central to the process of all change.” A saga like ours is an invaluable competitive advantage in our disrupted, unstable times.
Whatever happens, we are resilient and purposeful. We are Carleton University and we are Here for Good.