I have had some significant time to think about a great deal with respect to our wonderful university - Saybrook University. As a non-profit, private, regionally accredited institution conceived in 1964 and officially launched in the mid-1970s, the original idea put forward by established scholars like Rollo May, Abraham Maslow, and Charlotte Buehler was to reimagine higher education, focusing on creating a new means of accessing graduate study, particularly in the field of psychology. This entailed at-a-distance graduate work with luminaries in the field. And for well over 45+ years, SU has been making good on that original concept and expanding across several disciplines.
Heading into the next few years, our University is setting out on an ambitious strategic plan, which as of late has caused me to reflect on a few of key questions: Why Saybrook University? Essentially, why do students, faculty, and staff come to this institution? Moreover, what is it that we do that is making a difference? And, ultimately, how do we continue to provide excellent graduate education in a day and age where competition is fierce, when institutions of similar size are struggling and in some cases collapsing?
Mission comes first. Saybrook's mission is what draws faculty, students and staff in the first place. The focus on rigorous graduate education steeped in humanistic philosophy and practice with the goal of spurring positive social change speaks to our intellectual leanings and pulls our heartstrings. And while mission is vital, it is essentially the idea of what we hope to accomplish. In the end, students come to graduate school to immerse themselves in deep study with scholars who have established themselves in their particular field of interest. Additionally, our students embrace the fact that our faculty eschew the Ivory Tower stereotype plaguing much of higher education today. In short, many are practicing their scholarship, making substantial contributions in their disciplines, their clinical and consulting practices, their organizations, and their communities.
Our Academic Programs - Humanistic Scholar-Practitioners: When considering the question of why, I think of our various programs, including Mind-Body Medicine, Integrative and Functional Nutrition, Humanistic and Clinical Psychology, Counseling, Leadership and Management, and Transformative Social Change. Each program embraces our humanistic legacy, weaving in the importance of understanding the individual, her unique strengths and challenges, her role within the greater community and society, and helping her to actualize her full potential.
In The Field, Promoting and Making Change: Real life examples of Saybrook faculty, students and alums abound. Consider Anthony in San Francisco who is putting his education to work supporting, among several important causes, homeless men with HIV; or Ginger Charles, a retired police officer and alum who is working with police departments to help change how they interact with their communities, thus improving morale and reducing police-citizen violence; or alum Brigadier General (ret.), Dr. Kaffia Jones who is dedicating her next career phase to helping veterans with PTSD; or Dan Leahy and Jeff McAuliffe who are helping transform organizations like SoundTransit; or our student interns working with Girls, Inc., in Oakland by supporting and helping young women and men actualize their full human potential; or Dr. Theopia Jackson who is creating community healing networks in concert with Association of Black Psychologists; or the work of College of Social Sciences Dean Kent Becker and his Photovoice project offering individuals from marginalized communities opportunities to share their stories. The list goes on.
Our students and faculty, as evidenced above, are people making a difference locally and globally. Ultimately, those of us here or who are coming to Saybrook University want to make that difference, because we believe in the power of taking what we learn, applying it, and changing lives for the better. The power of what we are working to achieve now will definitely enable us to accomplish and expand Saybrook's mission well into the future.
The Student Experience. Moving into the next few years, our next priority is to continuously enhance the student experience. In addition to excellent faculty, our online and residential learning environments must reflect 21st Century best practices and innovate beyond the "what is". My numerous conversations with students point to a pervasive theme: students expect connectivity and meaning. Online learning around the country has become unnecessarily disembodied, with few exceptions. Finding new ways to expand the human-virtual experience that promotes academic engagement as well as close-knit bonds will be how Saybrook defines itself.
For me, all of the above answers the "why" and "how" of Saybrook University. Together, we are making a difference each and every day, locally and around the globe.