We Are All Webster: Building community from many identities, owning our biases, infusing diversity with inclusion | Webster University

Orlando Metro Campus Opening


Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Orlando Metro Campus Opening, Orlando, FL

•  Thank you, Nicolas [Spina, Orlando director]. And thank you to all of our staff and faculty here. I know this was a tremendous undertaking for you. But what a payoff for that hard work! What a great location for us.

•  And thank you to Mayor Dyer. It’s a pleasure for Webster to expand its commitment to your city, and it’s an honor to have you here to once again welcome us.

•  I see significant parallels in the histories of Webster University and the City of Orlando. Both of our communities began small but with noble intentions to provide opportunity and access to dreams. Both have grown over the decades to reach more people and impact a greater number of lives in pursuit of those goals. And both have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, while keeping an eye on the future.

•  Many of you here may not realize this: Although Webster University has served students in Orlando for more than 25 years, it was actually founded more than 100 years ago, in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, by an enterprising group of nuns who saw the need to educate women. This was at a time when women still did not have the right to vote in this country, but they didn’t let the status quo keep them from doing what needed to be done. They saw this need, they took action, and they created an institution that has remained true to its mission.

•  Today their legacy is a global university that serves students from 148 countries at campus locations in 60 cities on four continents around the world, with 180,000 living alumni worldwide.

•  For the last quarter century, Orlando has been one of those great communities Webster is proud to call home. With the concept of “home” comes many things: bonds that strengthen over time. Roots that extend deeper with each shared moment together. Shared interest in imagining a brighter future. Those are all evident in Webster’s decision to relocate our north and south Orlando locations into one, centralized and beautiful spot right here in downtown.

•  As you can imagine, when we grow as part of larger communities they become almost extended families. Communities we contribute to, learn from, share resources with and find ways for our diverse backgrounds to meld together and create fresh perspectives, new opportunities, and rich connections that help make a city like Orlando so great. 

•  That means we share in each other’s pain, too. We are reminded every day that we live in a complex, interconnected world. Just as the 2014 events in Ferguson were felt not only in St. Louis but across the nation, so too were the tragedies Orlando faced in June felt deeply by community members throughout the Webster University network.

•  I learned of the unconscionable attack at Pulse while I was meeting with faculty, staff, and community members at our campus in Athens, Greece. Together we grieved the loss of young life and pondered its significance. These colleagues did not see it as an “American” issue, but rather as a global loss, illustrating sociologist Ulrich Beck’ s observation that "the global and the local are to be conceived, not as cultural polarities, but as interconnected and reciprocally interpenetrating principles."

•  At Webster, we recognize in such moments of tragedy the increasingly complex and connected world of which we are a part. These events affect each of us as we seek to educate and serve in ways that become part of the solution to increased security and wellbeing for individuals and communities around the world.

•  In tumultuous times, institutions of higher education can play a critical role in bridging divides, increasing healing, broaden understanding, and forge new bonds that strengthen communities. That’s also true of our nation’s cities: Vibrant, thriving and resilient cities play a major role in marching our society forward in the face of obstacles and setbacks.

•  So it’s energizing to see the vitality of downtown Orlando and the vision that Mayor Dyer and other community leaders have here. It’s comforting to see the leadership the Mayor has shown in handling the present while also looking toward a great future.

•  All of us at Webster are thrilled to do our part in making that vision come true. It starts – no, it continues – with our faculty who bring their expertise from many fields across the state of Florida. It grows with our staff making connections here and ensuring an outstanding student experience. And of course it blossoms when our students take the knowledge and connections they’ve formed here, multiply them and put them to work in making our world a better, more inclusive place to live.