An Open Letter of Love and Leadership: A nod to Paula Cordeiro

I do not consider myself particularly political or militant in any way.  In fact, I work to maintain certain levels of peace and stasis at high costs, sometimes to my detriment.  However, I have learned that when you go to bed with something on your mind and you wake up and it is still lingering, attention must be paid.  

It was brought to my attention, again, yesterday that my university, the University of San Diego, is embarking on a search for a new president and the President's search committee as it stands does not have adequate representation from the graduate community, and in particular my own school.  As a doctoral student in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES), I take great offense to this oversight.  

Working for two years in SOLES Admissions and Outreach, I was privy to learn insights and "bragging rights" that SOLES had, which I would openly share with prospective students.  We are currently ranked in the top 10% of graduate schools of education in the nation, according to US News and World Report. We currently have the nation's only mobile technology learning center--a university-based research center dedicated to studying the implementation and impact of technology in the PK-12 classroom both domestically and abroad.  We have the nation's first PhD in Leadership, and one of the only doctoral leadership programs that teaches leadership using an interdisciplinary curriculum. Our Department of Learning and Teaching was recently recognized for the attention it places on diversity and a global perspective to education by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).  We are one of only seven Marital and Family Therapy programs in the state of California to be nationally accredited, our counseling programs are one of our greatest arms into the San Diego community working at schools and mental health facilities all over the county.  

Not to mention within our own university, SOLES students comprise approximately 1,300 (or 16%) of the university population and hold leadership roles in every graduate serving organization (Asian Students in Action, Black Graduate Student Association, Latino/a Graduate Student Association, Graduate Student Council).  Our Higher Education Leadership Masters candidates support our division of Student Affairs working in the Center for Student Success, Residential Life, the Women's Center, Torero Programming Board, United Front Multicultural Center, Associated Students, and IFC/Panhellenic.  And this is just current students, to begin to count the number of SOLES alumni in university administration leadership roles would exponentially increase the amount of reach and influence that has already been unearthed in the aforementioned.  So, you can imagine why I, as an active and vocal member of this trailblazing community, feel incensed at our lack of representation when looking for a new University leader.  It seems all but too obvious that our own institution might call upon those who have been facilitating and exercising leadership all along, to join the process.  

I feel extremely blessed to have been a student in SOLES while under the leadership of Dean Paula Cordeiro, if for no other reason than this: At a hosted brunch held to thank First Lecture keynote David "Mas" Masumoto, I shared with Dean Cordeiro my consideration of my six-word memoir--something Mas urged us to consider during his lecture the previous evening.  I shared with her I knew four words, "Already am. Always was." but noted that two more were needed, she offered a simple, "Now what?" The moment may seem simple enough, but it is the constant question that inevitably comes for leaders.  For what are we without forward motion, vision, and a sight beyond what is? It is no surprise that our own leader, Dean Cordeiro was recently honored as an outstanding leader and visionary by the Classrooms of the Future Foundation.  When I considered the probable impact of this letter, whether or not it was appropriate, whether or not it would be read, whether or not my classmates colleagues professors and administrators would agree with me, it paled in comparison to the idea that somehow my words, my actions might bring about a new possibility.  Leadership is about entertaining possibility and really, that is what we all work for in education, and in leadership: new possibilities.  We work to be open to them, to give them shape and purpose, to better our environments and to move humanity to a more compassionate and connected space.  That is what I've learned from my Dean, that is what I've learned from SOLES.  

My words, and this letter are my fist in the air, my banner waving boldly on the lawn of Hughes Administration.  It may have been a choice you made, but it is not a choice I have agreed to.  Not as a student, not as an employee, not as a future alumni of the university. I find it inexcusable, yet I find it telling that SOLES was not included in the university search for new leadership.  I hope the candidates ask this question of the committee when interviewed, "With an education and leadership school of your caliber and renown, why are they not here in this room helping to determine great leadership for an institution of higher education?" What we also know as SOLES students is that often environments are not yet ripe for change. It does not mean that we remain silent, it does not mean that we stifle ourselves shrinking hard to stay small, dim our lights, or recoil our reach.  It means that we work that much harder. We work to inspire, to influence, to understand that which is (seemingly) not of us, we cultivate empathy and we continually challenge our spaces to rise grow and stretch to accommodate new ways of thinking and being.  The distance between where we are and where we can be is the space we have been trained to work in, and so we must audaciously and ardently and always.