President's Notebook  •  Spring 2013

Deborah FreundA practice-based research university

This March I had the pleasure of updating our board of 
trustees on the current state and, more importantly, future 
of our university. My talk was inspired by many things. 
Most notably, in early 2011, we began the process of realignment—forging CGU into a more efficient university; one that fosters increased synergy between students and faculty, and is more competitive in bringing in funding, both governmental and private.

Realignment, as I noted in March, has brought challenges, but also tremendous early benefits. Some of those can be found in the pages of the Flame magazine—such as exciting new partnerships with the Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Esri, a world leader in GIS software and applications. Now, it is tempting to fill the rest of this letter with a list of our recent accomplishments—as many of you know, there is nothing I enjoy more than bragging about CGU; but instead I want to write about the future of our university, and graduate school in general.

We are a research university in a changing academic world: one that is more competitive, more international, more diverse, more interactive, and based more online. How do we continue to be a vibrant institution in this changing world?

We need to affirm goals that both reflect CGU’s DNA and that help us create a futuristic niche in the higher-education marketplace; one that students—like the millennial generation, who will be entering graduate school before we know it—view as valuable and will draw them here. But how do we more 
effectively realize our mission in the twenty-first century?

One of our major goals that addresses that issue is strengthening practice-based education and research here. By practice-based, I mean education and research that help our students learn from people in embassies, nonprofits, and start-ups 
as much from books, theories, and empirics; that explore 
collaborative options to make greater impacts on people’s lives; and that introduce our graduates to career paths they hadn’t yet fully imagined.

Like all good scholarly work, practice-based research and 
education is always grounded in disciplinary theory, evidence, and sound science, but it is also informed by the problems and challenges that exist beyond the laboratory and lecture hall. There are multiple forms it takes, such as clinics, student internships, doctoral placements in for- and nonprofit institutions, and through engagement programs with neighbor agencies like those in the Inland Empire who would benefit enormously from our expertise.

I believe these kinds of collaborative projects are what graduate education will look like in the twenty-second century. We are already doing some of this at CGU today, but we will need to do more to take a leadership position by advancing the practice of research and teaching, and to tell the world what we’re doing, to make it a more prominent part of the value 
that draws students to us.

Students of the millennial generation are growing up in a 
very different world than the one I did. They are going to learn differently than me. Thus they are going to require a different graduate-school experience than the one everyone 
in my generation got.

I want to ensure CGU is the kind of graduate school millennial students will want to go to. Our size, resources, and transdisciplinary and practice-based opportunities provide them more freedom to pursue scholarship that both engage in conversations that matter, and conversations that matter to them.

But what I have written here is only the briefest description of a single element of what I see as an ambitious and exciting expansion of CGU’s value to students and impact on the world. I hope you will stay tuned for more information and updates by visiting our website, reading the Flame magazine, connecting via social media, or visiting campus. It is the good ideas and creativity of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni that have gotten us this far, and will continue being the driving force in shaping CGU’s future.

Deborah A. Freund





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