Please allow me to introduce myself to the Harold Washington College community. While my future communications will be focused on you, our college, and most importantly our students, I learned from early discussions with some of you that I am somewhat of a mystery to many of you. With this letter, I seek to dispel some of that mystery. In addition, since I will be asking many of you about yourselves in the coming weeks, I thought it only fair to share my background with you.
Before I start, I want to thank John Metoyer for his service as our interim President. Serving in a transitional role is not easy, yet John’s grace and steady hands have made my start easier. I thank him for his work and look forward to working with him.
As I told the Search Committee for the President, which included representatives from the faculty, staff and students of Harold Washington College and the City Colleges of Chicago, I aspire to live my life by a set of core values. These values are:
• Respect for the individual
• Passion for lifelong learning
• Stewardship – the obligation to leave an institution
and those I serve better off than when I entered
• Commitment to Chicago – a desire to help ensure Chicago
remains a great global city
• Serving and mentoring others to achieve their fullest potential
• A bias toward action – particularly in correcting things
I perceive as wrong
• Personal responsibility and accountability
I am excited by the opportunity to lead Harold Washington College where the mission of our institution, our core values, and our vision are in alignment with my personal values. Serving in an organization where the institutional values are in alignment with my core values is a life’s goal. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity at Harold Washington College.
I grew up near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1979, I enrolled in the College at the University of Chicago, where I majored in an interdisciplinary major called Politics, Economics, Rhetoric and Law. During this time, I also spent a year working for the National Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington, DC. This public service experience, advocating for an issue that mattered greatly to me, was deeply rewarding. It taught me, however, that there were skills I wanted to develop further in order to be as effective as possible in the public sector. Therefore, upon graduation, I joined the firm now known as Accenture, a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm, where I worked as a consultant, partner and managing director. I have deep respect for and gratitude to Accenture for the wonderful people with whom I worked, the clients I served, and the leadership skills I developed.
As rewarding as my Accenture experience was, I always knew I would one day return to public service. In 2007, I enrolled in the Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago to build on my management skills by adding expertise on the tools policy makers are using in the public sector. Over the summer of 2008, I advised the Chicago Public Schools on their strategy for Career and Technical Education. That fall, I started as a Principal with the Civic Consulting Alliance, an organization that builds pro bono teams of business experts, government leaders, and its own staff to develop workable and enduring ways to make our city more livable, affordable, and globally competitive.
My final project at Civic Consulting Alliance was working at City Colleges on Reinvention. I am familiar with the goals of Reinvention – in fact, they are in my job description – and with the processes City Colleges is using to help achieve those goals. I was so impressed by the people I met and their commitment that I applied to become the President of Harold Washington College, so that I could take a more direct role in achieving these goals.
In many ways, the chance to lead Harold Washington College is the fulfillment of a life-long dream. I cannot imagine a better way to contribute to making Chicago an even more competitive, global, livable city than leading an institution that prepares students to be civically engaged and gives them the tools to ultimately get jobs and successfully participate in society. Education transforms lives. I believe we have a sacred trust with every student who walks in our doors to do our best to help them fulfill their dreams. I am passionate about helping develop our next generation of leaders who will take Chicago to even greater heights. Based on the faculty members with whom I have already met, I know many of you share that passion.
As a first step, I am committed to learning as much as possible about what you like about Harold Washington College and what you feel we need to change by spending time meeting with members of our faculty, staff, and students. In his book “On Leadership,” Max DePree said that the role of a leader is in the beginning to define reality, at the end to say thank you, and in the middle to serve. That sums up my view of my role as your new leader. My goal is to be accessible to you, listen more than I talk, provide us with a clear vision, give you the support to achieve our common goals, and support your growth as professionals.
Our mission is central to who we are. All of us bring that mission to life. I am trying to learn how you do that and what you need to do an even better job for our students. I look forward to working with you to support our students and prepare them to realize their dreams. In the meantime, feel free to reach out. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my blog is at http://www.donsdesk.wordpress.com.