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Inaugural Address

This is the text of President Chapdelaine's Oct. 17, 2015 inauguration speech.


Good afternoon. Thank you so much for coming!

I am completely overwhelmed by how many of you have taken time out of your busy lives to join me in this joyous event.

I want to extend a special thank you to my family: my husband David and my sons, Daniel and Benjamin. My parents, Bill and Jackie Chapdelaine; my mother in law, Barbara Tetreault; and my sisters, brother (Happy Birthday Bill), sisters-in-law, brother-in-law and even two of my nieces – one who came from Germany. Theresa, I think they have Oktoberfest in Germany too!

My dear friends and professional colleagues from all over the U.S. – Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, and more, to be here.

Many of you are here not only because you are my friends but also because you are part of the reason I stand before you. You have been my champions, mentors, counselors and my ever-present reminders of what is most important. Thank you for being here but moreover, thank you for all you have been and are to me. And although it is hard not to name you all, I do want to share how deeply touched I am that the person who first guided me to a career in higher education, Dr. Ellen Cohn, my undergraduate advisor, has honored me with her presence.

And to my new friends: trustees, associates, faculty, staff, elected officials, community members, and students—especially the students. Your enthusiasm, warm welcomes and support for me brings me immense joy each day. I am so happy and proud to be your president!

One of the aspects of Hood that I have come to quickly and deeply appreciate is how much Hood alumni care and love Hood College. And the turnout of alumni today amply demonstrates that love. Here with us today are 112 alumni representing 70 class years, beginning with Janet Coblentz Cover from the class of 1944. Among this illustrious group is the granddaughter of Hood’s first president, Joseph Henry Apple, Betsy Mccain Apple, class of 1951 and her husband Harry; 4 emeriti trustees and many members of the Hood College Board of Associates and Alumni Executive Board. Given the commitment to Hood by her alumni, you will not be surprised to learn there are also many legacies in this group. Raise your hand if you are a legacy!

And a very special thank you to two great men who have made my job much easier for having come after them: Dr. Ron Volpe, President Emeritus, who served Hood College from 2001-2014 and is owed much credit for the institution Hood is today; and Dr. Robert Funk, who served as interim president from 2000-2001 and provost from 2001- 2010.

And a very big thank you to all of those who made this day possible: those who planned, organized, and executed the numerous inauguration events – the lectures, art shows, theater and music performances; those who spoke and participated in this ceremony—thank you Jake for that incredible poem—those who today and every day make this beautiful campus shine; those who are feeding and caring for us; those who participated in civic engagement week—more than 100 faculty, staff and students—by collecting food, clearing trails, running a 5k this morning with me (what was I thinking?), resulting in a total of nearly 500 service hours.

I am deeply grateful for your efforts. Thank you.

Today is an important step in the history of Hood College. And it comes at an important time in the life of the College as it nears its quasi-qui-centennial celebration. Wow, I can’t believe I got that word out!

As I begin as the 11th president of Hood in its 123rd year, the College is also undergoing its decennial accreditation process, yesterday the Board adopted an ambitious and exciting 10 year master plan, and we will soon begin drafting the next strategic plan.

Only 15 short years ago when President Emeritus Volpe stood where I do today on his inauguration, Hood was facing enrollment and financial challenges. Thanks to his vision, the support of the Board, the hard work of the faculty and staff, and the generosity of the benefactors who believed in this college – many of whom I am so thankful are here with us today – I will lead an institution which is in a very different place, but one that still carries its greatness from the past.

It is a college characterized by a venerable tradition of educational excellence, a faculty and staff with an unwavering commitment to student learning and well-being, and a productive and beneficial relationship with this wonderful Frederick community and the great state of Maryland. We are a college that is strong, vibrant and poised for new vistas and achievements.

That is not to say the road will be easy.

All institutions of higher education are facing challenging external forces that will test their abilities to fulfill their missions. Yet I have no doubt that the tenacious spirit and the love that has guided and supported Hood through the many trials she has faced in her 123 year history will enable Hood to weather any storm and be stronger than ever.

I am confident that Hood is ready for these next steps and, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, I am excited to think of “the places we’ll go” and the adventures we will have along the way.

What are the most important next steps for Hood? Let me share three that I believe are essential.

First, we must continue to ensure a steadfast commitment to academic excellence. From a position of strength, we must seize the moment to reinvest in our core mission. To do so, we must first ensure that we are fully supporting the Hood faculty, whose exemplary commitment to student’s achievement is the cornerstone upon which academic excellence is built; and sufficiently investing in academic departments, support programs, and infrastructure.

But to achieve true excellence, we must also “1)” fully integrate the liberal arts and professional preparation and “2)” include deep and engaged learning opportunities for all students.

Hiram Winchester, the founder of the Frederick Female Seminary, which eventually became Hood College, said the purpose of that school was “the promotion and advance of female education and the cultivation and diffusion of literature and science.”

While retaining our steadfast commitment to this mission, which still defines Hood today, we must also make permeable the barriers that define our curriculum and our faculty.

The late Steve Job’s said: “it is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough – that it is technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, which yields us with the results that makes our hearts sing.”

We need to focus more on that marriage, and less on its component parts. We must take the lead from our students, who think less in terms of disciplinary boundaries and more in terms of a holistic education. We must create an integrated, scaffolded and coherent curriculum, and provide seamless pathways from our bachelors to our graduate programs.

Second, we must increase the breadth and accessibility of enriching educational experiences for all of our students. By this I mean those experiences that embody Hood’s motto: “corde, et mente, et manu” – heart, mind and hand. That is for the heart to dream and desire, the mind to design and plan, and the hand to apply and execute.

Experiential opportunities like those of Gary Higginbothem, a senior Middle Eastern Studies major, who spent last semester in Jordan and currently interns at a non-profit in DC that supports Middle Eastern populations; or Jenny Dootz, a Master’s student in Environmental Biology, who is working with scientists at Fort Detrick to improve detection of harmful bacteria in Frederick County’s soil and water.

Such an education, one that cuts across all boundaries and places engaged student learning at its center, one that connects thinking, feeling and doing such that a student’s whole self is immersed in the learning experience, is one I would describe as achieving academic excellence.

Hood’s mission is not to graduate educated individuals, but educated citizens, that is, graduates who contribute to their communities. To achieve this goal, we need to strengthen our relationships with those beyond our campus. We hear often about our youth’s low scores in math or science relative to other countries. What we hear less about is the lack of civics knowledge, which has been pushed almost entirely out of the curriculum.

Hence, our next generation is becoming one of spectators rather than participants. As Charles Kolb said, “the heart of a vibrant democracy is educated, engaged citizens who are able to make choices for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.

Through partnerships, locally and globally, we can aspire that all our students participate, and that such experiences are contextualized by a curriculum that emphasizes the importance of education to prepare tomorrow’s leaders of a democratic society. For example, I hope this week of civic engagement becomes an annual event and that we continue to grow the Volpe Scholars program, a fund established in honor of President Emeritus Volpe to support experiential learning.

An oft-heard criticism of colleges and universities is that we tend to operate in silos. Unfortunately, it is a criticism we somewhat deserve. Collaboration tends to be viewed as a threat to the independence that we hold so dearly, or as a possible competitive disadvantage.

Yet, as higher education faces constrained resources and markets, partnering with others provides an important way to achieve mutually desirable goals. Therefore, Hood must increase its reach beyond her campus in order to enhance intellectual opportunities for our students and our community, foster positive economic development and become an agent of social change.

Furthermore, partnerships provide opportunities vital to an excellent education: internships, study abroad, research opportunities – many of which we have thanks to partners who are here with us today.

Through such partnerships we become a better institution – more efficiently run, more responsive to the needs of our students, and better caretakers of our campus.

It does indeed take a village. Those colleges and universities who embrace their neighbors and neighborhood rather than stand apart will be stronger institutions as a result.

In my time here, it has become abundantly clear that Frederick is a great community. Everywhere I go I have been welcomed and told stories that confirm Frederick’s value. I have met alumni, former trustees, members of the Board of Associates and others who are connected to Hood in one way or another. In fact, it seems everyone is connected to Hood! Their regard for Hood has been palpable, as has their willingness to support our students’ success. Frederick and Hood are profoundly intertwined. Just as we must celebrate the marriage of the liberal arts and professional preparation, so must we celebrate and expand the partnership between Hood and Frederick.

As we are expanding our partnerships off campus, I believe we must also strive to strengthen our on campus community.

Over the past several weeks, we have witnessed the violence that has plagued our nation’s colleges and universities. I believe more than ever that education is the light that can dispel the hatred and ignorance that leads to such evil. It is violence that comes from fear of those that are different and threaten our own sense of self, fear borne out of want and need, and fear of the unknown. Education is the tool that enables us to become a better version of ourselves and to better understand those who are different from that self.

As a historic women’s college, Hood has been characterized by a collectivistic culture that cares deeply about and respects each individual. We are not just friendly to our fellow Hood community members, we embrace them, support them, celebrate them. This strong sense of community is what drew me to Hood and has demonstrated itself in countless ways since my arrival.

The strength of this community can be seen in the traditions that are cherished and sustained over the years, whether it be the Dinking Ceremony, Policies for Dollars, the Hood ring (raise your hand if you have one on), the strawberry breakfast, or the prohibition against splitting the poles in the pergola.

I ask all my fellow Hood community members to affirm and strengthen our community by first, ensuring inclusivity so that all students who have the desire and will to achieve a Hood education can do so, regardless of background and financial means. Also, to ensure that all who serve those students are welcomed and supported.

Second, we must remove the silos on our campus. Just as students do not see disciplinary boundaries, so too should students not meet walls as they navigate our campus. We must always work together, with respect, trust and care, to serve our students.

Third, student-centeredness. It is a term that is lightly thrown around, but for me it means that all our actions are characterized by an unwavering commitment to providing students the best education we can and genuine concern for their well-being.

We must also take the time to know our students. Students, you are very different from my peer group, the infamous ‘me generation.’ You do not have big hair and you never had the nirvana moment when a microwave was introduced to your home, nor have many of you seen a cassette tape.

Seriously, I am very excited about the future when I look to your generation. Your levels of community service are unprecedented. Although sometimes we bemoan your attachment to your mobile devices, you have friendships that span the globe, even if you have never left Maryland. And perhaps most distinctive, your acceptance of diversity is truly admirable. You do not understand what the fuss is all about regarding marriage equality and your heroes are Laverne Cox, Katniss Everdeen and Tyler Oakley.

You are students who want a college that accepts you in all your diversity, challenges the status quo, and provides you multiple pathways of discovery.

Which leads to the 4th way to strengthen our Hood community: innovation. I challenge Hood to determine how we will innovate to continue to provide our truly excellent liberal arts education for today and tomorrow’s students.

As Jack Kennedy said, “change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

We must be willing to embrace change in order to live our mission to prepare students to excel in meeting the personal, professional and global challenges of the future.

To summarize, I believe in an even brighter future for Hood and that we can achieve that future through renewed focus on academic excellence, partnerships and strengthening our community.

As Hood’s 11th president, I am committed to help achieve that vision.

I commit to listen to, collaborate with and support all who work so tirelessly to support our students – trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, associates, community partners, and benefactors. I will seek to engage all of you in the good work of this college.

The same applies to you, students. I will be with you, I will listen to you, and I will be your biggest fan (even when that means holding you accountable for something not so worth celebrating).

Together, we will create and achieve a vision and a strategic plan for Hood that is rooted in its past, but is responsive to today’s and tomorrow’s students. And I will work arduously to garner the resources to support that vision.

I commit to making Hood an even better partner to the Frederick community.

I will strive to be a passionate advocate for Hood and will join with my fellow educators to be a champion for the liberal arts institutions.

And I pledge that all my actions will be guided by Hood’s central values – knowledge, intellectual freedom, honor and integrity, leadership, diversity and inclusiveness, responsible stewardship and hope.

As Woodrow Wilson said, “we are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with finer spirit of hope and achievement.”

So let us begin, together.

Thank you.