Welcome back to Reid Castle and to our beautiful Manhattanville campus! As always, we have been very busy over the summer to upgrade our campus and its facilities and to continue to make them ever more student-friendly and community-focused.
Early in the summer, collaborating with the New York Soccer Club of Westchester County, we completed the renovation of our second playing field, to the west of the tennis courts (renovated the year before). For the first time ever, we will now have shared use of a “Bubble,” i.e. an enclosed structure over the second field, which will go up in November and allow us to train and play throughout the cold winter months. The Bubble will go up in November and stay up until the middle of spring. The new field and the Bubble have also enabled us to launch a full schedule of intramural sports for those students who are not involved in varsity competitions but would nevertheless like to participate in athletic activities. There will also be community-wide intramural events involving mixed teams of students, faculty and staff, so please watch out for announcements from our Athletic Department office! When I go for my morning walks around the campus around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. (join me if you are up at that time!), I always take special delight in letting my eyes wander over our revitalized athletic fields!
Other campus improvements include the renovation of shower rooms in Dammann and Tenney Halls and the renovation of our Chemistry labs in Brownson (still underway). By the end of this week, we should have completed our new Movement Room in Founders, with mirrors mounted and floors installed. Classes will begin by the mid-September, and we will share the finalized schedule soon. We are planning to offer Zumba classes, high intensity interval training classes, fitness boot camps, and yoga.
In the future, our Athletics Department is looking to install resistance bands for strength training. There will also be opportunities for students to teach several of these new courses. In addition to the regularly taught classes, there will be open hours for informal student use.
Throughout the summer, Interim Provost Louise Feroe has been working closely with School of Arts and Sciences Dean Christine Dehne, faculty, and administrative staff to scan all of our student-related processes and protocols with the goal of making them as user-friendly as possible. Starting with this fall term, incoming and returning students are able to self-register for all of their classes. Provost Feroe has also been working closely with Vice President for Student Affairs Cindy Porter, SAS Dean Christine Dehne and a large group of faculty and administrators to create a “one-stop shop” for all Manhattanville students’ academic administrative functions: The Registrar’s Office, Financial Aid, and Student Accounts. We expect this change, which should save Manhattanville students a great deal of walking back-and-forth between various office buildings, to be implemented in time for the spring semester.
Throughout the latter part of May and June, more than twenty Manhattanville faculty and staff were trained right here on campus by IDEO, the San Francisco based firm that pioneered Design Thinking, a new, collaborative method of decision-making and prioritizing that has been implemented by major U.S. companies such as MasterCard, Georgia Pacific, and even Walmart. The methodology is also being used by graduate departments in some of America’s elite universities such as Stanford (the D-School) and M.I.T., but Manhattanville College will be one of the first liberal arts colleges to introduce Design Thinking into the undergraduate curriculum. Design Thinking trains students in precisely those critical aptitudes that Joseph E. Aoun has identified in his recently published book on the future of higher education in America as “Robot-Proof,” i.e. the human-centered skills that will enable graduates to compete successfully against the coming revolution in artificial intelligence and machine thinking: project-based, contextualized, intercultural, systems-oriented, and entrepreneurial.
While some individual experiments in Design Thinking are already being implemented this fall, we expect to roll out regular offerings across various sectors of the curriculum once we have completed renovating the President’s Cottage, north of Reid Castle, to become our new dedicated Center for Design Thinking. Work on the Center will commence as soon as I have moved out of the Cottage to take up residence in Deerfield, an iconic building on the south end of campus, and should be completed by late next spring, so that the Center can officially open its doors in the fall of 2019. Watch out for updates and news on Design Thinking and the Center throughout the coming academic year! I am particularly excited about this project not only because introducing Design Thinking to the curriculum will complete a major part of our Strategic Plan, but more importantly because it will eventually give participating Manhattanville graduates a competitive edge in the job market!
One critical element of Design Thinking is empathy, understanding what your interlocutors, your customers, your colleagues, your teachers and students are looking for in their interaction with you. This requires an understanding of who they are, where they are coming from, what their stories are, what movies they like, what books they read, what games they play, what kind of music they listen to, what sorts of food they eat and, most importantly: what they are afraid of – and what their aspirations are. Empathy, currently in shorter supply in America and the world than it has ever been in my lifetime, will be the gold standard of the coming decades, the difference between success and failure, both on the individual level and as a society, national and global. We will train those of you who participate in our Design Thinking projects in the practical application of empathic skills. As an institution of higher education it is our job to provide our students with an understanding of the importance of empathy on a societal, political, artistic, scientific, and spiritual level. Empathy starts with conversations, real conversations, not social media chatter. So let us make the 2018-2019 academic year the Year of Conversations!