“Lots of institutions are ambitious,” Olian said, “but Quinnipiac’s ambition is infused with dedication to our students’ emotional, spiritual and intellectual development, a drive to be relevant in our research and societal questions, a level of caring for others, and deep interest in where the puck is headed, to use an analogy we all understand here.”
University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill, who delivered the keynote address, told those assembled that “at no time in our history has a college education been so vital and so important as today. Yet, at no time in my memory has there been more doubt or dissension among the public concerning our institutions of higher learning.”
This contradiction, Schill explained, puts a premium on the leadership, fundraising and decision-making skills of college presidents. Before Schill and Olian were named to the top positions at their respective universities, they were friends at UCLA, when he was dean of the School of Law and she was dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
“The seminal text on higher education leadership was written by Michael Cohen and James March in 1975,” Schill said. “It characterizes American universities as ‘organized anarchy’ characterized by ‘problematic goals, unclear technology and fluid participation.’ I’m not sure how that sounds to you, but I think Judy Olian is ideally suited to run ‘organized anarchy.’”
It is this bold, gutsy approach to leadership — Olian is decisive and deliberate as much as she is thoughtful and innovative — that will write the next chapter of Quinnipiac’s story.
“Judy Olian has a strong, moral compass. She is steadfast. She is loyal. She has an excellent sense of academic judgment,” Schill said. “She’s exceptionally ambitious — not for herself, but for the institution that she serves.”
Olian said at each juncture in Quinnipiac’s history, those who came before made “daring choices” backed by action, the pathway to a global, 21st-century vision of the future.
“In former president Samuel Tator’s day, this might have been called moxie,” Olian said. “Today, we would describe it as nimbleness or audacity. It is the spirit of the bobcat, our mascot: fierce, always moving, and surprisingly capable of prevailing in challenges much larger than its size would suggest.”
Olian also made a point of addressing the accessibility of higher education at Quinnipiac and elsewhere. “Education is a human right — and we will do our part,” she pledged, her comments met with enthusiastic applause.
The president speaks from her own experiences as a college student seeking an opportunity to improve herself and her world. “I came to America on an immigrant visa and received a scholarship to attend graduate school at Wisconsin,” Olian said. “That’s how I was swept up in the transformative power of U.S. higher education, and in the embrace of immigrants by the U.S. And that education never ends.”
To illustrate her point, Olian referenced a four-day stretch of events this spring that captured the diversity and breadth of ideas across the university’s campuses. During that time, she sat in on a teach-in about women and empowerment, a discussion about sex trafficking that drew upon the disciplines of law and medicine, a presentation about Ireland’s Great Hunger and a symposium that considered the connection between negotiation strategies and politics.
Charlotte Hammond, a biology professor and chair of the faculty senate, has spent the last 24 years teaching at Quinnipiac. She said the faculty believes in the richness and quality of the education here and Olian’s commitment to the future.
“The world is rapidly changing, and we are confident that Quinnipiac University, under your leadership, will be innovative and able to embrace these changes,” Hammond said in her remarks.
The Legends, Quinnipiac’s a cappella singing group, offered two songs during the ceremony, and the platform party processed from the arena to the strains of “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, accompanied by Boomer the Bobcat and a group of students waving blue and gold pom-poms.
Members of the university community converged in the Rocky Top Student Center for a reception and to paint four murals to be installed at Yale New Haven Hospital. The art, which highlights the Hamden-New Haven area, is designed to bring comfort to patients and their families. One of the murals features a bobcat and another, a lighthouse.
Events at the student center also included three faculty-led discussions on the future of democracy, education and nutrition. At the reception, Matthew Williams, a junior biology major, said Olian has a proven record of successful fundraising at UCLA, where she raised $450 million for student and faculty support, innovative programming and capital improvements. Williams said he believes in her plan for the University of the Future.
As part of the week-long inauguration celebration, Quinnipiac showcased the work of students and their faculty advisers on April 30 at the Innovation Expo and Taste of the Arts.
At the Innovation Expo, students from the College of Arts and Sciences and the university’s eight professional schools presented projects ranging from the application of data and audience engagement to better understanding hunger in Hamden and using calculus to predict the spread of a future Ebola outbreak based on 2014 data from Sierra Leone.
“Differential equations aren’t my strong suit, so I really had to work hard,” said Abigail Long, a senior math major. “I also learned how math can be used in so many different ways.”
Talent also loomed large at Taste of the Arts as the Department of Visual and Performing Arts offered a sampling of student work at the Black Box Theatre. The enthusiastic audience enjoyed performances by the QU Chamber Orchestra, a short play starring students Paul Zopatti and Tess Adams, two numbers by the QU Jazz ensemble led by Kyle Saulnier, visiting instructor of music, and several songs by the QU Singers.
In the lobby, student artwork was on display, and visitors tried their hands at video games created by game design and development students.
Deborah Mawhirter, a member of the Parents Council, came to watch her daughter, Nicole, a junior physical therapy major who sang with the QU Singers. She also performed in “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Wild Party” the last two years.
“This program was amazing. Nicole was not a theater major, but was able to carry on her passion with the arts at Quinnipiac,” she said.
The weeklong, community-wide inaugural celebration kicked off days earlier with an engaging mentorship event that brought Hamden and North Haven high school students together with Quinnipiac students and faculty to participate in presentations and activities exploring what it means to be a good, global citizen. QU students, faculty and staff also collected nonperishable foods to donate to food pantries in the region.
“We are an institution of lifelong learning,” Olian said, “and I am lucky to be a part of it. … It’s a privilege to be among people who — in many different ways — are integral to the uplifting and noble pursuit of learning. Whether as a teacher, an administrator, a trustee, a spiritual leader, a staff member, or as a student — higher education is an experience that transforms a life.”