President's 2008 Convocation Address

Across the Disciplines and Out into the World

Robert Klitgaard

President, Claremont Graduate University

October 2, 2008

Welcome to Convocation 2008.  “Convocation” is one of those special words from academia.  Not to be confused with “invocation,” which is the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like.  By the way, do you know the professor’s invocation?  It begins like this: “Dear Lord, Thank you for making me so smart.  Please protect me from the sin of arrogance, which for your information is defined as…”

Convocation is a celebratory event where we look together at where we are and where we’re going.  As we get started in 2008-9, CGU is blessed with one of the largest and ablest cohorts of entering students in memory.  Over the past two years, the number of applications has risen by 21 percent.  GMAT scores and GRE scores in the entering class are up sharply.  We now have 2100 students at CGU, with a 7 percent increase in full-time enrollment in the last year alone.  Diversity remains strong.    

We also are blessed with a remarkable staff and faculty.  We’re not fully staffed but we’re getting there.  At yesterday’s all-staff meeting, for example, we could not longer fit in venue we’ve used for years.  How many of you in the audience are new to CGU within the past year?  Please stand.  Please join me in welcoming these new members of the CGU family.

Many of the students have just entered the new graduate student housing complex, the largest CGU building project in recent decades.  I’m pleased to report that the building was completed on time and under budget.  CEFA recently approved just over $15 million at favorable rates for needed maintenance and rehabilitation projects, so you’ll be seeing many improvements in your classrooms, offices, buildings, and common spaces.

CGU ended the past academic year with a budget surplus of over $600,000.  Fundraising was up by 16 percent last year.  Financial aid increased by $1.85 million.  External funding for research dropped a bit from the previous year’s record high, but the average for the past three years is more than twice the average of the previous two years. 

We face a budget challenge this year.  CGU no longer has the “School as Lender” program, meaning a loss to our budget of about $900,000.  We are challenged by the fall in financial markets, which has reduced the value of our endowment.  To be able to fill all the faculty slots we need and to continue to expand financial aid, we’re looking forward to at least a 30 percent increase in research funding this year, and our goal is to increase philanthropic giving by 50 percent, from about $10.9 million this past year to about $16.5 million this year.  Your Board of Trustees and I are making this our highest priority, and we’re grateful for the full participation of the deans, of Vice President for Advancement Gregory Pierre Cox, and of Vice Provost for Research Dean Gerstein.


Why do we need these funds?  As you may recall, as part of our strategic planning process last year over 200 CGU faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni spent a Saturday “imagining CGU.”  This “appreciative inquiry” began with the elicitation of CGU’s strengths and core values.  Building on those strengths and values, a series of exercises produced wonderful ideas for moving ahead. 

The overarching vision was this.  We want to represent a different kind of university, one worried less about what John Gardner once called “the increasingly precise pursuit of the increasingly irrelevant, and worried more about “following the problem” across the disciplines and out into the world.  As we do so, we will provide leadership in graduate education.  We will take on some of the most important problems facing our region and our world.  And by being something uniquely valuable, we will attract the resources we need for our long-term financial independence. 

Leadership in Graduate Education

Following Peter Drucker’s advice, our strategy is to build on our strengths:  across the disciplines and out into the world.  To achieve our vision, we are focusing on what makes us different and special, instead of what makes us generic and typical.  Each CGU graduate school now has a “vital, feasible strategy” that connects its core values and strengths with the needs of students and society, and the realities of the educational marketplace.  Some schools are creating “signature courses,” which exemplify what makes them special—for example, the Drucker Difference and a new seminar being planned by the School of Arts and Humanities.

CGU has pioneered research-oriented transdisciplinary courses for Ph.D. students, which help students trespass across the disciplines and out into the world.  Under the leadership of Dean Terry Ryan of the School of Information Systems and Technology, CGU has developed “the Claremont Conversation for the 21st Century.”  This is a collaborative tool that enables students to have “Claremont-like” interactions online.  In some of the t-courses, students from different disciplines team up to design a research project that would shed new light on the topic of the t-course.  They develop this research proposal on an on-line “wiki,” which is commented upon as it is built by their fellow students, professors, and others. 

At “Imagine CGU” the idea emerged for t-courses aimed at students who will become leaders, managers, and activists in business, government, nonprofits, and education.  This past year teams of professors considered issues crucial for leaders and managers of the future, where CGU has world-class expertise, and where it would be educationally valuable to have students from all these professions in the same class.  As a result, they are contemplating five “professional” t-courses on these topics:  Leadership and Teamwork; Evidence-based Decision Making; Working across Cultures; Public-Private Partnerships; and Good Work and Good Institutions.  Vice Provost Wendy Martin has assembled a faculty committee to design these and other transdisciplinary courses.


CGU’s vision of leadership in graduate education is to enable students and faculty to move more fluidly across the disciplines and out into the world.  We’ve made progress, but we also face some challenges.  This year I have asked Provost Yi Feng and Professor Tammi Schneider, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee, to work with the deans and reconsider the academic requirements in each degree program in light of our transdisciplinary goals.  How can we do more to enable cross-registration?  In our faculty appointments, how can we attract even more people who are impassioned about moving across the disciplines and out into the world? 

I have also asked the Graduate Student Council to help rethink academic requirements and cross-registration.  The students have been strong advocates for the new professionally oriented t-courses.  And this year the GSC is organizing what for a while they were calling “t-parties”—“t” as in transdisciplinary—a regular series of speakers and receptions on cross-cutting issues of importance.

Yi and Senior Vice President Steve Garcia are working with the FEC and the trustees to reconsider CGU economics, meaning the incentives we provide to the Schools and the faculty to innovate and collaborate. 

And as mentioned, we want to improve our academic infrastructure.  This means buildings, and it means information technology.  For example, CGU has been experimenting with distance learning this past year in the School of Information Systems and Technology and the School of Mathematical Studies.  Our new Chief Information Officer Travis Wynberry is working with the Provost Yi Feng and others to take our educational IT to the next level in the year ahead.


CGU’s vision is also for research that matters—research that is not afraid to move across the disciplines and out into the world.  Our faculty believe in this sort of research for two reasons.  First, it helps advance theory.  Second, it improves our ability to solve problems.  Finally, it helps us avoid the ivory tower syndrome.  We move into the world by partnering.

Let me give you some examples of moving across the disciplines and out into the world.

Lori Anne Ferrell’s forthcoming book, The Bible and the People, was featured in a 2007 PBS documentary and will appear in December from Yale University Press.  Just in time for you to make it a Christmas present, even for yourself.  You know, in the eleventh century, the Bible was available only in expensive and rare hand-copied manuscripts. Today, millions of people from all walks of life seek guidance, inspiration, entertainment, and answers from their own editions of the Bible.  Lori Anne’s illustrated book tells the story of what happened to the ancient set of writings we call the Bible during those thousand years.  By looking at hundreds of different translations and versions of the Bible, she demonstrates how the Bible has been endlessly retailored to meet the changing needs of religion, politics, and the reading public while retaining its special status as a sacred text.  Lori Anne combines in her teaching history, literature, and religion—now in this pathbreaking book, she adds politics and sociology to the mix.

Another example of moving across the disciplines and out into the world is embodied in work going on at Claremont Graduate University on the topic of trust.  Paul Zak in the School of Politics and Economics is examining the neurological foundations of trusting behavior.  Ingolf U. Dalferth of the School of Religion is part of a large project in Europe examining the philosophical, psychological, and religious aspects of trust.  Henry Krips of our School of Arts and Humanities is looking at the social uses of trust, and also the social uses of distrust, scepticism, and doubt.

A classic example of moving across the disciplines and out into the world is research on evaluation.  What tools and data can help us, and society, figure out what works where?  This topic has emerged in the “No Child Left Behind” initiative, where evaluating students’ progress has become a political as well as an educational issue.  Professors Rebecca Eddy and Tiffany Berry of the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences have edited a new book on Consequences of No Child Left Behind for Educational Evaluation.  First Rebecca, then Tiffany:

Crossing the disciplines also happens at our School of Mathematical Sciences, where professors such as Ali Nadim are move across the boundaries to advance the boundaries of mathematics, science, and application:

That’s the sciences…what about the arts?  Moving across disciplines and out into the world happen here, too.  Professor David Pagel was asked to curate an art exhibition in Texas, and to their credit there, they wanted to learn more about the art scene in California.  David mocked up three exhibits, but wasn’t happy with any of them.  He tried taking a couple of artists from each of the three.  He ended up mixing artistic disciplines, and the result was capturing something special about what’s happening in our art world:

Professor Sue Robb of the School of Educational Studies spearheads projects for the education of children with special needs.  She and SES have recently received two grants for almost a million dollars, and this work too moves across the disciplines and out into the world:

Apart from these amazing individuals and their Schools, CGU also has new initiatives that cut across the Schools and spread across the Claremont Consortium.

One is the Drucker Institute.  Created two years ago, the Drucker Institute (DI) is the successor to the Drucker Archive.  Instead of looking backward and simply compiling Peter Drucker’s work and commenting on it—though these tasks of the old Archive persist in the new Institute—the DI looks to the future and looks outside CGU to carry forward the Drucker legacy in new ways for new audiences.  It works with partners, indeed galvanizes and connects them.  For example, representatives from twelve Drucker societies around the world have come to Claremont twice for what are now annual conferences.  The Drucker prize for non-profit innovation has become the center of a huge event celebrating success.  The Institute’s director Rick Wartzman has a regular column in Business Week online called “the Drucker Difference.” And with the guidance of the DI Board and the help of a leading marketing firm working pro-bono, the Institute has developed a powerful new presentation called “the responsibility gap.” 

Another example is the new Claremont Center fro Mathematical Sciences. When Dean John Angus was asked to think how his small school could live up to the lofty goals of “Imagine CGU,” he imagined mobilizing the 50 mathematicians in the seven Claremont Colleges.  John’s dream and his hard work with Ellis Cumberbatch and other colleagues bore fruit in January 2008 with the creation of the Claremont Center for Mathematical Sciences as a Claremont-wide initiative to encourage collaboration in education, teacher training, research, and outreach.  CGU is the lead institution for the new Center, which promises benefits in Claremont and out into the world. 

  1. Pulling together and sharing what the Claremont Colleges have learned about teaching college-level mathematics.
  2. Enhancing the training of mathematics teachers from diverse backgrounds.  As you know, in partnership with Harvey Mudd College and USC, CGU is the second location in the country for Math for America, and we have welcomed the first six such students here this summer.
  3. Wholesaling the Claremont tradition of “math clinics” where students and faculty carry out applied research on important issues with sponsors in business, government, and civil society.

Another example is the Claremont What Works Consortium.  In January, CGU invited a hundred philanthropists, award-winning NGOs, business people, and academics from many disciplines to consider how to fill these gaps.  An online forum followed, and the result was the creation of the Claremont What Works Consortium.

This new endeavor exemplifies working across the disciplines and out into the world.  Under the leadership of Dean Stewart Donaldson and the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences, it will involve the others schools at CGU, the Claremont Colleges, and partners outside Claremont to:

      Generate, analyze, and combine evidence from a variety of sources, including methods such as “appreciative inquiry,” and working with practitioners to gather evidence and examples, interpret them, and ascertain together their practical lessons. 

      Create and apply innovative research methods and pedagogical vehicles for connecting evaluation and decision, academy and practitioner. 

      Convene leaders from government, business, nongovernmental organizations, and academia on a variety of challenges.  These “convenings” will examine inspiring cases of progress, look at new theoretical approaches, and pull together the best information.  Participants will have a safe, neutral space to address concerns together—and to come up together with imaginative, possibly joint new approaches and experiments.  And participants will be connected in a network of continued flows of information, training, and ideas about what works.

One final example is the ninth School in the CGU family, the new School of Community and Global Health.  It exemplifies our aspirations to provide leadership in graduate education and to take on some of the most important problems facing our region and our world.  Let me quote from Bob Tranquada, former chair of the Claremont University Consortium and former dean of the USC Medical School, now chair of the advisory board of CGU’s new School of Community and Global Health (SCGH):

We are at a turning point in the field of community and global health.  In the past, public health policies have focused on the spread of infectious diseases such as typhoid, TB, mumps, small pox, cholera and typhus, addressing such issues as proper sanitation, clean water and isolation of the sick, as well as programs of intervention (antibiotics, immunizations) to prevent the spread of infection.

Now, as economic development is spreading worldwide, a new group of chronic diseases have become much more prevalent:  heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung disease, dementia, and neurological and mental disorders.  These diseases are not spread by infection but rather by social change and lifestyle choices.  Factors such as nutrition, smoking, exercise, and social relationships are creating the explosive growth of non communicable disease – both in the U.S. and around the world.  Contributing economic and social factors include rapid economic and social change, poverty, and income disparities.

In order to respond to these dramatic changes, the community and global health intervention strategies must change.  And therein lies the need for a new academic program that addresses these factors with data-driven research to develop interventions that are effective, affordable and acceptable to the populations of sick.  These new interventions have the potential for a very positive return on investment.

Therefore as this new paradigm of public health emerges, the new School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University is positioned to become a world leader in providing the academic and research programs to respond to this dramatic shift in the role of community and global health.

The new School will move across the disciplines and out into the world, in collaboration with many other areas of CGU, including the Kay Center for E-health, SISAT’s masters program in health information management, SBOS, the Drucker School, and the School of Educational Studies. 

As well as with the Claremont Colleges.  Did you know that every fifteen years or so, the Claremont Colleges consider creating a “new venture.”  The last one was in the mid-1990s, the Keck Graduate Institute.  Before that, there was Pitzer College.  Beginning three years ago, the Claremont Colleges formed a “new ventures committee,” including many of the presidents and if not them, then chief academic officers as well as some trustees of the CUC.  The new ventures committee solicited applications from faculty and students.  Twenty-three were vetted in the first round, leading to seven finalists who were considered this past spring. 

The winning idea was the School of Community and Global Health.  Our proposal has been “green-lighted” by the committee, with final approval contingent on a review this fall.   

Our Consortium

Let me turn now to the Claremont Colleges.  On our website you’ll find a wonderful video putting us in the context of the five colleges and the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences.  Among the nicknames of the Claremont Colleges is “Oxford in the orange groves.”  [Please go to, then click on “the Claremont difference” and then click “More” under the paragraph beginning “CGU is the graduate university of the Claremont Colleges…” and finally click “Click here” after “To see a video clip on the Consortium…”]

This year the Claremont Colleges together will be fortifying the ties across the Consortium, carrying forward a major library improvement, and working toward the establishment in Singapore of a sixth undergraduate college.


So, I hope that these videos of your colleagues and friends, CGU’s bold initiatives, and the potential of our University and our Consortium fill you with excitement and with the passion to move ahead with urgency.  We are moving forward and we need your help to achieve our objectives.  This year, we need to work together to enable collaboration by reexamining and if necessary changing academic requirements, reforming CGU’s economic system to provide better incentives for innovation and collaboration, and to grow what I call conviviality, that special feeling that we’re in this together, as friends and colleagues. 

And yes, we’ll be raising funds, your deans, your development staff, your trustees and advisory board members, and your president. 

Together, let’s make this a transformational year for the university we love, as we move across the disciplines and out into the world.


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