Last year, when collecting ideas for our strategic plan, I asked if there was one word that captured the essence of who we are and what we want to be. After various discussions and deliberations, we settled on catalyst.
Typically, the word catalyst is used as a synonym for an agent that accelerates change. But this propulsive, dynamic characterization of a catalyst captures only one of its two essential characteristics. The other characteristic is that, despite all the changes it stokes, the catalyst itself remains intact in its chemical form.
On first pass, focusing on the permanence or constancy of a catalyst may seem counterintuitive given the inevitability of change in communication technologies and its effects of human communication.
Upon reflection, the importance of constancy began to emerge. We are the first college of communication. Over the years, we have contributed values, insights, theories, principles, and models that have stood the test of time and shaped the discipline. That cannot change.
So our catalyst culture is a blend of constants and changes, and our desire for change should be balanced with our our drive for contributions of enduring impact. The change and constancy that make up a catalyst are evident in community, curriculum, and creativity that are the pillars of our college.
The soul of our college is our community, which is a mosaic of the current and the future. The addition of 30 new faculty is an indicator of change and progress. The accomplishments of our current faculty who have created a top-10 program is an example of the constancy of excellence that has been forged over many decades.
At the heart of our college is our teaching mission and curriculum. We have made numerous changes last year, including a massive curriculum revision in Media and Information. We added new minors in animation and comics, and communicative sciences and disorders. Revisions in Ad+PR and Communication are on the way.
A catalyst’s approach is manifest in our modular curriculum designs that include constants and variables. The constants are our core courses that introduce values, principles, and enduring knowledge that hold up over time and across contexts. The variables are new courses or clusters that offer timely skills that make our students competitive in the marketplace.
There are a number of ways to be a catalyst. I like to fancy ourselves as being creative catalysts. Creativity blossoms with placemaking, which is the intentional use of space to help a community achieve its fullest potential.
You will see a catalyst’s approach in the design of the new lab on the ground floor. We have left some of the brick walls that have served us well to remind us of our roots and the constancy of our rich heritage of excellence. We have torn down some walls and replaced it with glass for a clearer vision of the future.