“It Is Possible” | Dr. Robert E. Johnson, Chancellor, Umass Dartmouth, 2017
As the new Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead this great institution and serve this community. As we get to know each other, you will discover that I believe no matter what challenges confront us, we can create our own opportunities and be victorious. My simple message to you today is this: It is possible.
As members of our incoming Class of 2021 have shared their hopes, dreams, and beliefs as part of our This We Believe initiative, I wish to share with you who I am as we begin this journey together. I believe strongly in possibility thinking, in succeeding against the odds, and competing above my weight class and winning.
When I told my high school counselor in my senior year that I wanted to attend Morehouse College, she looked right at me, and told me that I was not college material and was not worthy to continue my education. Even though, at that time my high school, Cass Tech in Detroit, was one of the top high schools in the country and its entire student body was in a college prep major, I was “not worthy. “
When I went home and told this to my mother, she said, “Son, your purpose in life is to serve. It doesn’t matter what type of degree you have or your job status; in the end it adds up to what you’ve done to help others. In all you do, be true to yourself.”
My outlook is further informed by witnessing the impact of economic decline on Detroit’s autoworkers, many of whom were members of my extended family. The rapid rise of technology and global competition dislocated thousands of skilled unionized workers. Today, this technological revolution continues across virtually all industries and challenges us to leverage our assets to prepare graduates and the region for a rapidly changing global economy.
I fundamentally believe in the goodness of the human spirit and that everyone is born into this world with a purpose to make a difference and that this requires all of us to treat one another with dignity and respect. No matter what is happening in the world, we must be caring advocates for that which is right, and be empathetic to the needs and wants of others. The CorsairsCare campaign shows us the way by encouraging us all to “stand up, stand together, and stand stronger.”
As a member of this community of learners, scholars, and citizens, I will simply tell you what I believe:
- I believe we must inquire with curiosity and always seek to elevate the value proposition of teaching, research, and service at UMass Dartmouth.
- I believe students, from undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates, come first, and everything we do must support their success.
- I believe hate has no home at UMass Dartmouth and I have zero tolerance for those who believe any race, ethnicity, religion, or gender is superior.
- I believe in the power of civil discourse and that we can agree to disagree and still be friends and colleagues.
- I believe we should treat one another the way we want to be treated.
- I believe that the goodness of our humanity will drown out the voices of hatred and intolerance.
- I believe we must collaborate with our regional partners on the SouthCoast to create the vibrant economy that benefits us all and strengthens our community.
- I believe in working with others to find solutions, not just to identify problems.
UMass Dartmouth, a tier one national research university, provides a private college education and experience and public university value. It is possible for us to have a campus culture that is second-to-none throughout the higher education community. It is possible for us to have a world-class organization that competes on all levels and prepares graduates to become contributors to the global community.
Higher education is a privilege, and an educated person has a responsibility not only to seek personal and professional success, but also to contribute to a greater good. As a community of learners, scholars, and citizens, let us commit to staying true to our values, doing the right thing, and always seeing the glass half-full.
Had I listened to my high school counselor, I would never have attended Morehouse and most likely would not be your Chancellor today.
It is possible!