Living Our Promise: A Gettysburg Evening at the Franklin Institute – November 10, 2022

November 10, 2022
President Robert W. Iuliano
Franklin Institute, Fels Planetarium
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As Delivered.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome.

Let’s give another big round of applause for our Gettysburg students Raycell and Ethan, as well as Professor Ian Clarke, on their wonderful presentations—and Natalie for her music. Thank you!

One of the things that was driven home during the pandemic is the importance of being together, in one place and at one time, and for that, and so many reasons, I am delighted to be here with you all tonight.

This is an evening we’ve each set aside to be with one another. A night to share stories, to remember, to reconnect, and to reflect. It’s also a night to look upward—and forward to the bright future before us as a College.

Consider this: how many institutions in America have endured for 200 years?

There are very few.

And yet, in a little less than a decade, Gettysburg College will earn this distinction. Two centuries of excellence.

The year 2032 may seem distant to us now, but the choices we make today will have a profound impact on the strength and vibrancy of our College for years to come.

It’s what makes opportunities like the one in front us so rare and so essential.

It is the opportunity we have to build off the inspired work of our predecessors in the 19th century, the 20th century, and now the 21st century and, together, to take the next step forward—from a college endeared by 32,000-alumni strong to a college revered across the nation and around the world.

We will achieve this by what we do, now, for our students, during this pivotal chapter in our history.

I’d invite you to imagine our world in 2032. What do you see?

In a time of so much upheaval, so much uncertainty, I have never been more certain in who we are as a College and our capacity to make a difference.

When I envision the world in 10 years, I see our graduates rising to the challenges and opportunities of their time, and changing our world for the better.

I see our campus engaging across difference to strengthen democracy, and helping to unite our nation.

I see our alumni pioneering new approaches in science and medicine to advance global health, and developing new innovations in technology to heal our fragile planet.

I see Gettysburgians creating art and music that lift our spirits and offer us new perspectives on the world. Gettysburgians launching startups and NGOs that do well by doing good.

I see our students learning to lead with courage and conscience, and our devoted faculty forever by their side, teaching them how.

And I see us coming together as one Gettysburg community in support of a new generation of doers, like Raycell, Ethan, and Natalie, and for generations of young dreamers to follow—dreamers like two of my grandchildren, Leo and Ari, who are here tonight and excited to represent our future Classes of 2040 and 2043.

I see the “salutary influence” we, as stewards of this great institution, can have on our world and it is compelling.

I know you’re committed to this too. It’s why you’re here. You care about Gettysburg and you want to see it thrive.

So, the question for us tonight is this: how do we, together, create this bright future?

How do we prepare our students to graduate with the skills and the resolve to break through, to meet this defining moment, and to advance Lincoln’s unfinished work?

And above all, how do we instill in our students the belief that they can?

Over the past two years, our College has dedicated itself to examining these most fundamental questions. And our answer is by Living Our Promise.

The world is changing with dizzying rapidity. In every sector, across every industry, we are experiencing the effects of a society and an economy that is more technologically dependent and more globally interconnected than ever before. Advances in artificial intelligence alone have the real potential to transform the way we live and the way we work.

As a result, today’s students will graduate into a world that is vastly different than the one many of us graduated into.

Here’s a statistic that I often share with our students: it is predicted that this current generation of students will change jobs 17 times and change industries five times over the course of their careers.

Let me repeat that: our students will, on average, change jobs 17 times and change industries five times. We need to prepare them for this reality. And that’s precisely where the College has been focused over the past few years—a commitment to the enduring skills that will permit our students to navigate a world marked by change, adaptation, and transformation.

As we emphasize and reinforce those skills during a student’s undergraduate years, we will help them lead a fulfilling life and career.

Today’s students need an education that is truly lifelong. They need A Consequential Education.

This is what we promise every student at Gettysburg College—and it is at the center of our new strategic plan.

A Consequential Education enriches the mind, deepens the heart, and strengthens the capacity to act. It is both personal and timeless.

In my view, there is no greater gift we can give to our students than a life-altering education during their formative years.

As students, you lived it.

For Anthony Palmer, it was forging a path as a first-generation college student and political science major, and discovering a passion for law and ultimately making it his career.

For Bruce Chamberlin, it was learning how to reason persuasively through the mentorship of his Gettysburg professors, Ann Fender and Derrik Gondwe.

For Hanna Bogorowski, it was her influential internships and involvement with the Eisenhower Institute that led her into a career as a communications professional for the U.S. House of Representatives and now at a prestigious PR and communications firm.

We could go around the room. A Gettysburg education changes you.

It provides you with the tools to lead a contributive and successful life, in ways that are personally meaningful to you.

A Consequential Education is uniquely us, formed by our people, our place, and—with your help—a distinctive approach to teaching and learning, all working in unison to develop the whole student, the whole person.

As someone who has dedicated more than 30 years of his life to higher education, I can say with certainty that the experience we offer here at Gettysburg is special. Now is our time to build on it, and to make sure the world knows of the great work we do here.

Tonight, I’d like to share with you the three ways we plan to put our Consequential Education into practice and truly Live Our Promise.

First and foremost, our Gettysburg Promise begins by ensuring that the most talented and diverse students from the United States and around the world have access to a Gettysburg education.

We know that our education changes lives. We want to make it available to all those who have the potential to make the most of it—no matter their background or means. Your generous philanthropic support for financial aid ensures the heartbeat of our community remains strong.

In our efforts to attract the most talented students, we must also take into account the dramatic changes in the admissions landscape.

There are simply fewer college-age students today than there were a few years ago, and among those students, there are even fewer choosing to attend college.

Those attending college are increasingly coming from the South and West of the United States. Within the next decade, those regions will account for 80% of all U.S. high school graduates.

Gettysburg will be competing against all colleges and universities, everywhere, for that same narrowing and dispersed pool of students.

We are one star among the constellations. It is up to us to shine brighter.

Increased resources will help us amplify our College’s message and expand our reach both domestically and internationally.

Today’s students want to change the world. We invite them to study in a place that changed it.

Second, as I underscored at the outset, we want to position enduring skills as the cornerstone of our Gettysburg Promise.

Gettysburg graduates see connections that others can’t see, and they solve problems that others can’t solve.

This isn’t just anecdotal. When you look at national alumni data, a remarkable pattern emerges.

There’s a Georgetown study that measured the 40-year return on investment of 4,500 colleges and universities. Gettysburg ranked 33rd among all liberal arts and sciences colleges in the country.

In other words, a Gettysburg degree only grows in its value over time.

Why? Because we don’t just prepare you for your first job. We prepare you for the entirety of your career—10, 20, 40 years into the future, for jobs that haven’t even been dreamt of yet.

This is what sets Gettysburg apart. The goals of our Consequential Education are purposefully aligned with what employers and graduate programs consistently say they desire the most—those transcendent qualities that are the hardest to teach.

Leadership. Teamwork. Intercultural fluency. Communication. Problem-solving. Creativity. Adaptability.

As we implement our strategic plan, the College will infuse lifelong skill-building into all that we do. We will reinforce these core skills in the classroom, as we always have, but also through a wide range of high-impact learning practices, including study abroad, internships, student-faculty research, athletics, and community service—all excellent programs we seek to strengthen for generations to come.

For us, it’s about more than a nod to learning outcomes. It’s about reinforcing the habits of the heart and the mind that make for a consequential life.

This all brings me to our third and final point of emphasis for our Gettysburg Promise: how we will integrate enduring skills across our education.

We want students to graduate with more than a collection of experiences en route to a degree. By establishing a set of thematic Guided Pathways—focused on Innovation, Global Citizenship, Community Change, Leadership, and Career Development—we will help ensure our students are leveraging every Gettysburg experience to deepen these enduring skills.

We will also surround every student with their own personal Success Team, comprised of a Faculty Advisor, a Co-Curricular Advisor, and a Career Advisor.

Our Success Teams will work one-on-one with students to help them contextualize their Gettysburg experience and deepen their sense of belonging on campus. They will also offer them 360-degrees of support as they pursue their many campus endeavors—a personal approach few colleges can match. It will help students take full advantage of the extraordinary opportunities a Gettysburg education offers, yes, in the classroom, but beyond it as well.

Let me give you a concrete example of this in action.

Let’s say a student was named captain of their athletic team. Instead of learning on the fly, as nearly every student does, she would have a personal Success Team by her side—teaching her how to lead, how to inspire, how to listen, and when to speak up. These skills would make her a better captain, but even more importantly, the purposeful honing of these leadership skills will help her to thrive throughout her life and career. That’s a powerful educational experience to help students navigate a world marked by change. It’s one that amplifies and builds off what we already do so well—giving students an extraordinary breadth of experiences and responsibilities.

At the end of the day, we want our students to know themselves and believe in themselves. That’s what endures.

This means developing the infrastructure where students can have hands-on experiences, reflect on their entire education, understand the impact of that education, and then articulate that impact—and the relevant skills they attained here—to potential employers and graduate programs.

We achieve this through our Guided Pathways and Success Teams.

Of course, we likewise recognize the immeasurable influence our alumni can have on the lives of our students. We want to provide more opportunities for these interactions to take place. That’s why, in the coming years, we expect to work toward adding an Alumni Mentor as part of our Success Teams.

Imagine turning to Sarah Cardwell for guidance as a first-year or receiving words of encouragement from Fergan Imbert to keep pressing forward.

That’s the kind of personal and timeless education we want to deliver.

By realizing this bold and ambitious vision, Gettysburg College will deliver among the most personal and student-centered educational experiences in the entire nation—one that extends over the full arc of a student’s life and career.

Through this, our community will continue to rise to the great and unfinished work of our time.

Let me conclude.

Gettysburg College has endured precisely because the education we provide is enduring.

Together, we have an eternal Promise to keep, and that is to deliver A Consequential Education to every student.

The shape of that Promise, delivered to students since our founding in 1832—beneath the stars we gazed upon tonight—has appropriately changed over time in response to changing circumstances for each generation of our graduates.

We too must evolve. Gettysburg matters to each and every one of us. Together, we can help to shape its bright future.

Dr. Charles Glatfelter once observed, and I quote:

“Without a doubt, the most valuable assets which Gettysburg College had in 1900, and 1904, were not its buildings, but a host of devoted trustees, faculty, students, alumni, and friends. Working together, they had it within their power to determine whether this already venerable institution would exercise even more salutary influence in advancing the cause of liberal education in the 20th century then it had in the 19th.”

It is us—this Gettysburg College community—who will breathe life into the education we provide for our students in the 21st century and beyond.

It’s Professor Clarke and Gabbi Shultz.

It’s Vic Kalman and Lisa Cardone.

It’s Anna Baldasarre and Brett Montich and Kasey Varner.

It’s all of us working together to create the future we envision, for our College and for our students.

So, my ask of you is this:

Be engaged. Offer an internship. Mentor a student. Help us recruit a prospective student. Be an active presence in our community. We have one of the largest alumni networks of any liberal arts and sciences college. Let this be our greatest asset.

Make a gift. Start a scholarship. Fund faculty innovation. Support the Gettysburg Fund. Your philanthropic support helps make it possible for the College to say “yes!” to new opportunities that enhance our student experience.

And finally, let your voice be heard. Next week, we will be sending you an alumni survey. Your feedback will help us to enhance the alumni experience, and furthermore, put us on the path to achieving the ambitions I’ve outlined this evening. We want to hear from you.

Be a part of this exciting next chapter for Gettysburg College.

Let us forever Live Our Promise and, together, Do Great Work!

Thank you.