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UB Imprint Vol 65: Curiosity, Creativity, Collaboration, Community - Consciousness and Constancy by Governor A. Joy Grant
The University of Belize (UB), with all the strains and stresses attendant to a blossoming national university, has achieved notable advances in recent years. This is immediately evident in student performance, in the caliber of faculty and most measurably, in the accomplishment of your alumni here at home and on the wider world stage.
May I, with emphasis, associate myself with the chorus of commendations for President Clement Sankat who earlier this month was designated an Honorary Fellow by the Commonwealth of Learning at the Ninth Pan Commonwealth Forum in Scotland. President Sankat’s achievement exalts not only his decades of pursuing educational excellence but his unique distinction elevates, in equal measure, UB and Belize.
When the invitation arrived to join you, what most excited me, spurring my acceptance, was the rare opportunity to speak with an incoming class of UB students. There is, of course, the abundant attention to ceremonies that mark the end of the education journey, at graduation. What an unusual chance, I thought, to speak with you, students, at the start, rather than the conclusion of this potentially exhilarating period of your personal development.
In the private sector, there is, as you may know, a tradition of preparing a forecast referred to as a “forward-looking statement” – this is a kind of fortune telling exercise that focuses management on outlining the future, a vital exercise that informs plans and programs for attaining real results. UB has a compelling forward-looking statement, the marvel of “producing graduates who are socially and ecologically responsible, analytical, self-confident, disciplined, ethical, entrepreneurial, and skilled communicators and who are committed to using these skills and values for Belize’s enrichment.”
What, I ask today of this incoming class, is your personal forward-looking statement? How exactly will these months and years ahead of you, these interactions and experiences, sculpt the kind of person you aspire to become?
It seems to me that this Matriculation Exercise is essentially an event of a union between your vision – the forward looking statement of yourself - and UB’s vision for you. Matriculation reminds you of how crucial it is for you to reflect upon your goals and ambitions for the remainder of your time at the University.
UB will be, in the final analysis, what you make of UB. Bear this in mind each and every day.
The Chinese proverb wisely counsels that “teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” Today’s Matriculation formalizes the opening of this ceremonial entrance, confirming that UB, our nation’s most creative portal to individual and collective advancement, is now available to you.
Your enrollment, to be sure, comes in an epoch of rapid change and upheaval, some might even call it chaos, in academia and in the world. Consider one dazzling example - how technology has laid waste to the old notions of classroom learning, disrupted the structure of the workplace, and ultimately, reconfigured the very definition of the individual.
The ingredients necessary then for fulfillment, personally and as a national unit, evolve today with greater speed than ever before in the history of humanity.
What you can make of the UB experience will not, I caution you, provide answers to the daunting questions of your life and the fate of our nation, but UB will help you in arriving at the right approach to these awesome themes. And so much of your satisfaction, personally and professionally, will derive from the right approach.
CURIOSITY, CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION, COMMUNITY- CONSCIOUSNESS and CONSTANCY these are the five core qualities that I believe will most distinguish you, the traits that are indispensable to the most effective approach for learning and growth.
And as with any union, the effects of the symbiosis between student and learning institution flow both ways: you will shape UB as much as UB will shape you, thrusting upon you a unique responsibility, not only for your own advancement but for the success of the students that will walk in your stead. Allow me, if you would, just a few moments to elaborate on those five core convictions of the student who seeks what your school song hails as “the prize of knowledge.” Over decades of experience, in private, public and non-profit service; as a woman, a nationalist, a professional and as a mother, these values shine as brightly for me today as the time of my matriculation:
First, CURIOSITY, relentless curiosity that is a hallmark of lifelong learning. Do not shackle yourself with arbitrary boundaries, whether to the classroom, to your subject major or even to formal education. Embrace the adventure of relentless questioning, of the unquenchable thirst for knowledge, of the sacred pursuit of a better way. Progress, the critic Bernard Shaw, reminded us, is dependent upon the unreasonable human. Be unreasonably curious.
Second, nourish your CREATIVITY, ever mindful that human innovation is boundless. One of the most valuable public companies of our time, the iconic Apple, built its trillion-dollar appraisal on the simple assumption that human creativity is infinite. Creativity requires space, ample room for mistakes, tolerance for risk and as Steve Jobs discovered over his brief lifetime of nurturing his creativity and that of his associates, the rewards of genuine creativity can literally alter the arc of history.
Thirdly, small and fragile nations such as ours require teamwork, and so COLLABORATION is a key condition for success in college and the thereafter. Only last week, we came together to celebrate 38 years of Independence, an achievement that represented, and continues to represent, the pinnacle of a collaborative experiment in our young history. The diversity of talents required for the birth as well as for the survival of a nation state such as ours, and particularly one that is the subject of an aggressive territorial claim, is indicative of our immense collaborative potential. Harness this spirit of teamwork always.
Fourthly, a sensitivity to the well-being of the wider COMMUNITY may be the defining value of your generation, especially as the planet faces existential threats such as climate change, mass immigration and commodity-driven conflict. To bequeath a community, a country and in aggregate, a world, healthier than the one you inherited, is the environmental equivalent of the biblical golden rule.
And finally, “CONSTANCY is the complement of all other human virtues”, the philosopher enjoins us, and constancy in learning as in life has no equal. Never dither nor fritter away time. Life is short.
Hang these edifying banners boldly, five of them, along your education trail; And I submit that how you measure up against these values, will largely determine the destiny of UB and of Belize.
I have every confidence that you will each “drink deeply of wisdom’s fountain” and make your families, your faculty and this your homeland by the sea, so very proud.