THE QUALITY OF A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY
The first mission of a public university is to make a difference for its students. How do we know when we’re successful?
Aadil Lodhi grew up in Fayetteville. He attended East Carolina University from 2003 until 2007, when he graduated magna cum laude. This fall, he began his first year as a medical student at the Brody School of Medicine. What I know best about Aadil comes from observing him during a week long seminar on global ethics at Oxford University last year. He was one of two ECU students chosen to attend the seminar, along with seven university presidents, the former CEO of the Peter F. Drucker Foundation, and many others. Aadil distinguished himself among all the participants in the conclave on two accounts. First, he has character and integrity. Second, he has learned how to be a leader and he demonstrated that to the conclave.
Howell Binkley grew up in Winston-Salem and came to ECU in 1974. Howell was capable but unfocused in his first two years. But one day his professor asked him what he wanted to do in life. Howell ignored him for quite some time, but the question kept coming. So Howell finally gave the question the attention it deserved and then answered it by saying “theatrical stage production,” and the rest is history. Today, Howell is among the top three lighting directors in the world and recently won a Tony Award for Jersey Boys. Asked how he got to this place, Howell happily says, “East Carolina University.”
It is possible that Aadil and Howell would be great successes in life no matter where they went to school. But, ECU made a difference for both. Our faculty paid attention to the whole student and asked each of them to address one of life’s toughest questions, “Who am I, really.” Howell found his life’s passion, and Aadil is well on his way toward his.
Here’s the point. Let’s measure our university by what we do for our students and the value we add to their lives. The U.S. News and World Report measures the wealth of the university, the funds in the endowment, and the wealth of the students’ families. It is one of the most-panned measurement devices in the world, yet it gets headlines every fall. The magazine’s report says nothing about what actually happens in the classrooms. ECU has more students with a demonstrated financial need than any other university in the UNC system. We are very proud of what we do for them, but our contributions will never show up on the radar screen of the U.S. News.
ECU also leads the state in growth of undergraduates…the only rural university that is significantly increasing. This year we will have nearly 5,500 new undergraduate students, more than any other university in the state, except for NC State. I think these students know something about education that the U.S. News never even imagined. It is about what happens when you get here, not the size of your wallet.