Something more important than yourself

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, the Class of 2014 graduated from Philadelphia University at the Mann Center for Performing Arts. I shared words of advice with the class at the beginning of the ceremony, and I wanted to share them here as well for everyone to read and ponder.

Each year I reveal the secrets of success to the incoming first year students. I sometimes repeat this advice to students along the way in their careers at Philadelphia University. I’d like to remind you of these secrets… and at the end of my brief remarks add one more to seal the deal.

Remember, you have to do these 4 things, plus the graduation day fifth secret, every day.
• Brush your teeth.
• Shine your shoes.
• Be on time for every meeting and appointment.
• Work hard.

They are, of course, metaphors for a disciplined and committed life. All four of these tasks are within your control. Indeed, you don’t need a university education to do these things.

But in a matter of moments you will be university graduates. These secrets to success are now fueled by an ability to think deeply, seek opportunity, solve problems and act decisively.

At Philadelphia University we are obsessed with preparing you to be professionals in the field of your passion and empower you to be leaders in your communities…insisting that you ask the probing questions:
• Is what I am doing professionally desirable, feasible and valuable for the people I serve?

When you think deeply and act decisively, you become a “critical doer”… but you also risk failure, for there is no perfect plan.

When you leave PhilaU, I believe you will find that most people around you will hesitate, afraid of the risks. But the greater risk is leading a boring life filled with hesitation and second guessing.

You know how to build and use knowledge, you are decisive and creative. Don’t waste time on mediocrity…create greatness.

Ah yes, the fifth secret to success. It is my personal favorite and the first among equals:
Believe in something more important than yourself. It will force you to be humble especially when you achieve great things. It will calm you when life chaotically swirls around you and it will make you grateful for the love and support of family, friends and colleagues during your journey.

Class of 2014… congratulations!

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The Academy for Municipal Innovation’s first graduating class

Earlier this evening, the first class of the Academy for Municipal Innovation graduated in the DEC Forum. The Academy, a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia University, is an educational endeavor designed to educate municipal employees about innovation strategies that they will be able to apply to their professional work, aiding Mayor Nutter’s commitment to municipal innovation and progress. Below are the remarks I gave to the graduating class.

I am humbled to stand before the servant leaders of Philadelphia’s municipal government. Your pioneering effort to learn and implement the craft of innovation and apply it to the governance of the City of Philadelphia inaugurates a new meaning of public employee.

Philadelphia University (your namesake institution of higher learning) believes that innovation is no longer a competitive advantage, but rather it is a required core competency for individuals and organizations.

For too long, society has seen innovation as the purview of the private sector. Worse yet, society has believed it should be practiced only via the development of technology, and maybe just in choice regions like Silicon Valley and Boston’s 128 corridor.

Over the last 8 weeks you have shattered that false perception by taking the challenge to think and act differently. You are armed with the intellectual skills and tools to be “critical doers” for the common good.

It is a noble cause. More important… deep thought, decisive action and innovative solutions are a necessity if our great cities are to prosper.

We are fortunate to have a city leadership committed to bold action around innovation and change combined with Philadelphia University’s distinctive approach to innovation education.

With your leadership comes responsibility.

As qualified and supported agents of change, Mayor Nutter and his team have worked to make Philadelphia a model for innovation; sustainability; and industry, academic and government collaboration. And they have empowered you.

The results, big and small, will be chronicled and this effort will flourish… if you have the stamina to take the challenge.

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Letter to the Editor: The Academic Vanguard on the Defensive

Below is a Letter to the Editor I wrote in response to Barton Swaim’s book review of Helen Smalls’ The Value of the Humanities; the review was published in The Wall Street Journal on February 14. You can read Mr. Swaim’s review here (note that you must be subscribed to The Wall Street Journal in order to view the content).

It is antithetical to argue for the humanities leadership position in education by writing a book for academics involved in the humanities. That is akin to asking the accused to vote on the verdict. Ms. Small might consider using her rhetoric to convince the students and their parents of the value of the humanities. More important, both Ms. Small and Mr. Swaim imply that the humanities and non-humanities disciplines are mutually exclusive. I believe that is a false dichotomy. One discipline does not make a curriculum. The careful construction of pedagogy and content includes a transdisciplinary approach, requiring professional education and the humanities be woven together in a holistic approach to discovery, articulation and innovation.

Stephen Spinelli, Jr, Ph.D.
Philadelphia University
Philadelphia, PA