Can we make a difference?
Dear Deshpande Network Colleagues,
The horrific mass shootings we have witnessed over the past few weeks and over several years have certainly shaken many of us. Further, the political division and extremes we see in this country, attacks on women’s rights, undermining of civil rights and voting laws, the rise of hate groups and militia activity, may make us all wonder what the future holds for us and for our children. In addition to being an educator and academic entrepreneur, I am a father, a grandfather, a son and a friend. Like many of you, I worry about the society my wife and daughters, my grandchildren and their friends have to contend with. But then I remind myself that there certainly have been other dark days in this country. I was too young to face the red-baiting and hysteria meted out when America faced the “Red Scare” and McCarthyism. I was just coming of age in the mid-1960s as we confronted the reality of segregation and racism in America. I helped build a protest movement against unregulated nuclear power post-Three Mile Island and the Seabrook occupations and hosted the Yippies and the Rock Against Reagan tour as they shared their anti-war/anti-draft message in the early 1980s. So I recall days that were dark and scary when I wasn’t just sure what to do. But then we did something.
So, what does this have to do with our Deshpande Symposium on Innovation & Entrepreneurship in Higher Education you may ask?
Not an unreasonable question. In our heart, entrepreneurs are builders and problem-solvers. We look at problems and opportunities and then try to find solutions – a product, a service or a new organization – that not only addresses the problem, but does it at scale. This country, our society, needs solutions that scale. Certainly, we can start on our own campuses, in our own communities, but we need to network solutions, connect them across communities, across states and across countries. This is where the Deshpande Symposium can help as we connect people, institutions and communities. Together we can share ideas, share resources and scale solutions.
When I first engaged with Desh, Raj and a handful of others in planning for the first Deshpande Symposium in 2011, UMass Lowell did not have the solutions in place we have today. Rather we learned from our friends in this network, we borrowed ideas, shared resources and then built programs and solutions that addressed the problems in our community. At the same time, we shared with others – our spaces, ideas, time and resources – that’s what this Symposium ultimately is about. We share, we learn and we give, and together we are making a difference in this world.
Keep this in mind when you travel to Cleveland for this year’s Symposium. It is not only an opportunity to learn, but an opportunity to share. Perhaps share the problems facing your community and together we can consider how our institutions, our programs, our students and staff can work together to tackle some of the vexing problems facing our schools, our communities, our families and friends. I for one look forward to sharing with you all in June.