Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The weather is cooler. There is a hint of color in the trees. And, another academic year of great promise begins. I’ve written previously about some of the keys to finding success in life, and those apply here, as well. For those of you who are attending college this fall, I’d like to share some keys to having a fantastic year.
1. Make one better decision every day
In the end, it will be your decisions that will have the greatest influence on your own success.
Jeffrey Hawkins, the founder of Palm and Handspring, spoke at Stanford in 2009 and said that whether you run a dry cleaner or a tech company, if you could just make one better decision each day, you would end dominating up your industry. So, I am going to take from Mr. Hawkin’s handbook and challenge you to make just one better decision each day as you start the academic year.
I’m going to challenge you to make ONE better decision about alcohol use. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show that 1,800 college students die each year while under the influence of alcohol. That’s five deaths per day . It is a tragic and totally preventable statistic.
I’m going to challenge you to make ONE better decision about your personal relationships. ONE better decision about a healthy lifestyle. ONE better decision about time management. ONE better decision about service to your community. ONE better financial decision. ONE better decision about academics. ONE better decision about personal integrity.
2. Be about learning the “Skills of Freedom”
In his convocation speech this fall to students and faculty of The College of William and Mary, Judge John Charles Thomas urged students to be about “learning the skills of freedom;” to master the ability to “think well, write well, and speak well.” You, as students, must put forth the effort to learn how to think analytically, act ethically, read with interpretive skill, communicate effectively, and write strong, well-constructed sentences.
You must dedicate yourselves to developing an informed mind that can analyze, synthesize and execute. As Abigail Adams once wrote, “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought with ardor and vigilance.” The continued success of our precious form of government depends on your generation’s ability to discuss, defend, and persuade for the public good.
3. Prepare to change the world
Your number one job while you are a student should be to dream about the possibilities for your life, and to prepare yourself to change the world. For many, you will never again be part of a community so laden with curiosity, vitality, intellect and talent.
Take full advantage of the resources at hand. Study abroad. Participate in research. Get involved in the arts. Join a team. Have earnest discussions with others. Fight for justice. Encourage inclusion and diversity of thought. Be open to new ideas and innovation. Ask those around you, “What better world can we imagine together?” Then, lean on the skills you are learning to turn the common dreams of many into the collective purpose of all mankind.
4. Make service to others part of your college life.
Contribute to the well-being of your school and your community. Be as generous as you can with your time and talents. Show hospitality and civility. Be there for your classmates. Stand up for what is right. Develop and practice the skills that will make you an outstanding leader in the world. Prepare yourself to create communities that not only meet basic human needs, but make the human spirit soar.
I believe very strongly you have a responsibility to use your knowledge and God-given abilities to make a positive contribution to your generation. Create within yourself a promise that life is not just about you; not just about being rich or famous – all of that can be taken away in a minute. Education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you, and the impact you make on others will be your legacy – forever.
5. Above all, finish what you have started.
When John F. Kennedy was president, about 10% of American adults had a four-year college degree. Today, roughly 42% of American adults have either a two or four-year college degree.
Before you graduate, 60 % of all American adults will need college degrees just to maintain our nation’s position in the world. America is still the second most educated nation in the world behind Norway. But, our young adults – your generation - are rapidly falling behind in the race to produce the next generation of entrepreneurs, researchers, and world leaders. Young Americans, ages 25 to 34, rank 11th in college degree attainment, trailing behind nations such as Australia, Finland, Korea, and Japan. And, of course, India and China are coming on strong.
I am telling you this because you need to know about the world you will be facing. Earning a college degree will transform your life. Failing to earn one will likely define it.
My best wishes to all for an invigorating and purposeful new academic year.
By the end of this decade, two out of every three jobs available in our nation will require more than a high school education. In addition, “How do you prepare for a job that doesn’t exist? According to The New York Times , 65 percent of elementary school students face this very dilemma.”
A college education will be essential to the success of students. Their futures – and the future of our nation – depend on a university’s ability and willingness to be flexible, to explore new ways of working smarter, not harder, using 21st century technologies.
Let’s talk about - The American Dream
First, let me begin with the passion and belief that drives my work in higher education. Born in Havana, Cuba, I grew up in Madrid Spain, and I immigrated to the United States. A journey like that stays with you; shapes you; and guides your perspective on practically everything.
The gift that journey gave me is an unshakable belief in the American Dream – the exceptional combination of determination, hard work and opportunity that allows anyone – anyone- in this country to shape his or her future. I’ve never known a more empowering idea.
That dream can seem a little beat up these days. The challenges facing our middle class don’t help. Neither do the rising costs of higher education. Critics and cynics look for reasons to say the American Dream is dying. Someone, somewhere, as we speak, is probably drafting its obituary.
But not so fast. My own story, many of your stories are affirmation that the American Dream is alive and well.
The opportunity to help people achieve their goals, to give them the skills and knowledge to make the most of their God-given talents, to make a difference in improving the human condition - that’s what gets me up in the morning. Helping individuals realize their American Dream is the passion that drives my work in higher education. I am thrilled to be doing that work and I am thankful to have supportive friends, faculty, staff, and alumni at my side, making a difference and opening doors of opportunities for the next generation of leaders.
Innovation is Our Salvation
While some universities are gilding their ivory towers, others are innovating. Our creativity; our openness to innovation; our ability to ensure that we offer high-quality education throughout – that’s how we will meet the needs of the students, employers and communities we serve. That’s how we will protect, promote and provide the American Dream for those who pursue it.
We need to break
from the status quo; to leave behind the attitudes of “because it’s always been
done this way” and “just tell me what to do.” We need to respond to
technological changes and rapid growth. We need to prepare for even greater
growth, and we need to redefine University roles and processes so everyone will
have greater freedom to make the best decisions.
We need to continue to stay relevant for today and tomorrow. We must continue to hone, identify and develop programs of distinction. We need to graduate students with degrees in high demand fields with job ready skills.
But we need to go further, we need to graduate students who can analyze data, discern truths, write-well constructed sentences, and think creatively. We also need to graduate good men and women, who will walk in faith, stand firm against the winds of resistance and strengthen the moral fabric of this country.
I believe one basic
function of a public university is to facilitate a well-educated citizenry
capable of making good and informed decisions that benefit the whole of society.
It follows then, we should produce graduates who can think for themselves, who
are articulate and persuasive, who are critical, creative, and collaborative,
and who are technologically proficient and competent across disciplines -
Graduates who will contribute to the well-being of our nation, and the
world. Graduates who are committed to improving the human condition.
As educators, we are uniquely qualified and uniquely positioned to produce the next generation of great leaders, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge, to increase productivity and our standard of living, and to enrich our quality of life.Many of us have spent years and years becoming experts in our chosen fields. We are witnesses to a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-fed, blog-filled avalanche of information descending on our students. Never has a generation more desperately needed the training and knowledge to distinguish good information from bad. Never has a generation more desperately needed engaged mentors and engaged partners in their education.
Recently, I have been working with former Mexican President Vicente Fox and Centro Fox as his Senior Adviser for Education. For those unfamiliar with Centro Fox, it is the Vicente Fox Center of Studies, Library and Museum, a presidential history center founded by former President of Mexico Vicente Fox in San Cristóbal near his ranch in Guanajuato, Mexico.
A primary goal of President Fox is to deliver transformational opportunities in central Mexico through access to education – to provide young people an economically viable alternative to the often-illicit opportunities surrounding them. Centro Fox and its supporters are committed to providing a better future through higher education. This mission is part of my DNA. Being an advocate for those who often do not have a voice is an obligation for me.
My time working with Centro Fox reinforces my belief that the education we need – one that allows us to build an innovative and entrepreneurial culture, one that differentiates us and creates the best programs and services on a world-wide scale -- must include people who reflect a broad spectrum of demographics and people who reflect a broad spectrum of experiences and ideas.
There is a myriad of opportunities that present themselves when we actively seek to unite our expertise and talent with those of other lands and cultures. Our creativity; our openness to innovation; our ability to ensure that we offer high-quality education throughout – including through cross border programs – that’s how we will engage and meet the needs of the students, employers and communities that we serve.
There is something exceptional about cross border engagement and education. There is an entrepreneurial energy, a sense of unity, a commitment to academic rigor and student success, a commitment to service, a commitment to communicate openly and to expand our minds and opportunities so that the new generation of leaders of the world can learn together and lead together; in peace.
This re-envisioning of education creates institutions where very different people are encouraged to contribute their unique perspectives – one that promotes the free exchange of ideas, one that recruits and maximizes talent from all walks of life, and one that fuels and supports high performance.
In a December 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review , Sylvia Ann Hewitt, Melinda Marshall, and Lauren Sheldon of the Center for Talent Innovation identified what they coined “two-dimensional diversity.”
The first dimension incorporates the traditional traits associated with diversity - inherited traits such as gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Their study then went on to identify a second dimension of diversity they called acquired diversity. Acquired diversity includes traits you gain from experience; for example, things you learn from your career, from your studies, or from living and going to school in different places. What Hewitt, Marshall, and Sheldon found was companies that possess more than one dimension of diversity outperformed and out-innovated those that did not.
Global entrepreneur Richard Branson says his companies intentionally employ people with different backgrounds, different nationalities, viewpoints, skills and personalities. The results according to Branson, are “teams that can spot opportunities, anticipate problems, and innovate solutions.” Isn’t this what we strive for through cross border engagements? Isn’t this the type of education we need to provide as we face unprecedented global and demographic challenges?
In the 21st century, cross border education must be welcomed as a valuable strategic asset; a competitive advantage, a growth enabler. Cross border education is about people; about their thoughts, their experiences. We need to unleash our universities to act entrepreneurially and to become effective agents of economic development, knowledge transfer, and applied research.
Today, through cross
border engagement we are creating a stronger
that will encourage problem solving and tolerance; encourage cooperation and
critical review; support personal and professional growth, and create new
With technology and the exponential rate at which the world is changing, we don’t have a lot of time to change our view of cross border programs and their importance to providing a global education. We all must accept their importance as an imperative for global success. We must capitalize on the advantages of cross border engagements to develop innovative solutions, drive growth, and provide programs and services that exceed our students’ and our clients’ expectations.
IBM executive Ron Glover said, “Innovation is about looking at complex problems and bringing new ideas to the table.” Isn’t that what education is all about? Isn’t that what cross border engagement is all about? With the unprecedented challenges facing the future of higher education, entrepreneurship and innovation highlighted through cross border engagements will differentiate institutions that thrive from those will no longer survive.
Engaging individuals from diverse cultures, values, and nationalities is no longer a “nice to have” thing on university campuses across the world; it’s a “must have.” It’s indispensable to our future – and for the future of our world. We have great opportunities ahead; opportunities to shape the world through international partnerships and cross border engagements. It’s our responsibility to seize the moment; to charge ahead and to educate the next generation of leaders; the next generation of global leaders.
In the coming years, a changing economic and demographic landscape will confront institutions of higher learning and present the leaders of these institutions with exciting opportunities.
It falls to the President or Chancellor of the university to discern these opportunities and capitalize on them to strategically enhance programs, strengthen enrollment, and augment the university’s standing in higher education – regionally, nationally, and in the world. As the leader and public face of the university, he or she must be a passionate champion of the mission and vision, and of shared governance.
Visionary leaders will bring together all constituents to achieve the university’s commitments to excellence in teaching and research, to personalized student learning and to engaged citizenship. They will promote and support robust community dialogue and engagement. They will build institutional and broad-based support while marshaling resources to thrive and to operate efficiently.
To accomplish these goals and unify the entire constituency, the President or Chancellor must also be a principled, servant leader who exemplifies integrity, fairness, compassion and strength of character. He or she should possess an unwavering commitment to student success, diversity and inclusion.
Adding to the challenge, the university leader also must have a proven track record in fundraising and external relations, and in the development and implementation of programs that support first generation, minority and non-traditional students. He or she must be an agent of change.
What do I mean by serving as an agent of change? As the senior executive of the Reginald F. Lewis College of Business at Virginia State University and a member of the President’s cabinet, I led the College to develop a new strategic plan and to embrace new technologies. I oversaw the complete overhaul of our facilities that provided “smart” classrooms, a real-time trading center, and global “tele-presence” capabilities in our classrooms. With input from industry, we redesigned the business curriculum, and became the first college in the University to implement experiential learning and community service opportunities, international business minor, academic internships, a CEO Shadow Program, and international study-away programs.
I have a strong commitment to scholarship as I believe it provides the platform for best practices and intellectual advances. Our faculty research publications increased over 200 percent. We also restructured our operations to better meet the needs of our students without any additional expense to the University. Our initiatives became the benchmark for the University’s comprehensive strategic plan.
Innovation is at the core of institutional success. The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business (RFLCB) history by being the first school in the country to launch an integrated core curriculum, predominantly delivered in a digital format. This initiative was recognized nationally, and it earned the College of Business many accolades. Because of the digital initiative, the RFLCB realized more than a thirty-percent increase in student retention in our core courses and we saved our students more than $1,121,000 in a three-year period. More importantly, we provided our students with affordable access to knowledge. These are a few examples highlighting my personal commitment to excellence, community engagement, access, retention, and innovation.
Without change, there is no innovation. Without innovation, universities would become obsolete. For this reason alone, the President of the future will need to be a catalyst for institutional innovation, and a guardian of excellence. Ultimately, he or she must recognize learning only begins, not ends, in the classroom.
The finest leaders will be agents of change who fully understand their university’s strengths and have a well-defined plan of action to implement the necessary programs. All of these attributes will be needed to navigate the path of the future in higher education.
Birmingham, Alabama and Toronto, Ontario – 28 June 2017
– Kirchner Group
, a traditional
merchant bank, today announced Dr. Mirta M. Martin has joined the firm. Dr. Martin will be
focused on Kirchner Group’s traditional advisory and M&A services as well as the expanding
enterprise development advisory practice. She will further strengthen the Kirchner team and
will be active in a number of initiatives in North America and internationally.
Dr. Martin has held numerous academic and private sector roles during her career. She is currently a Presidential Adviser to Kansas Board of Regents and Fort Hays State University. In addition, she serves as the Senior Education Adviser to former Mexican President Vicente Fox and a Senior Scholar for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). Martin also serves as a Deputy Director to the Association of International Universities (AIU) representing the Americas. Previously, she has served a number of roles including President of
Prior to her career in academia, Martin began her career as a banker with First Virginia Bank Colonial. She later worked for Dominion Bank, N.A., and then First Union Bank as a Senior Vice President where she was part of the changing landscape of mergers and integrations in commercial and consumer banking.
“Dr. Martin’s career has exemplified the values and culture that we share at Kirchner Group and we look forward to her joining our growing team,” stated W.B. (Bud) Kirchner, Founder and CEO of Kirchner Group. “Our ability to attract someone of Dr. Martin’s talent is a testament to our 30+ year track record of creating value for our clients and the breadth and depth of our activities.”
Martin also lends her expertise to a variety of boards, including serving as a founding trustee for the Virginia Latino Higher Education Network (VALHEN), a director for Racing Toward Diversity Magazine Advisory Board, and AACSB BizEd Advisory Council. She also served as a Trustee of the American Association for Community Colleges (AACC).
“I am honored to be joining the Kirchner Group family,” added Martin. “It is a privilege to join an organization whose leaders share with me a vision of a better future. Together, I have no doubt we will enhance our ability to provide our partners and clients with innovative educational and business strategies that generate significant value as well as impact.”
Dr. Martin holds a PhD with a concentration in strategic management and leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University, an MBA from the Robins School of Business, University of Richmond and a B.S. from Duke University. She speaks fluent English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, further strengthening Kirchner Group’s international client base.
About Kirchner Group
Kirchner Group was founded in 1985 on two fundamental premises: every business can be improved and every business should improve the world. Today, the firm is a values-based corporate ecosystem, committed to the integration of “earning and returning”.
The firm provides advisory and operational services, enterprise development and transactional support to companies, investors and institutions through a proprietary approach that dovetails domain and process expertise. Kirchner Group also manages assets for family offices and some of the world’s largest insurance companies, commercial banks and institutional investors. www.kirchnergroup.com
"What Should Universities Teach?"
The answer to this question goes far beyond a program or a list of essential subjects, for today’s students are tomorrow’s world leaders. With this in mind the purpose of the University education should be to develop in students critical skills that can be used to discern what is important from what is trivial, and what is true from what is not. We should seek to develop leaders who are flexible thinkers with agile minds; leaders who can adapt to and resolve problems not yet imagined; leaders who will push the boundaries of our determination, intellect and creativity, who will act ethically and lead with values.
Today, employers want individuals who can use their education to think analytically, act ethically, read with interpretive skill, and write strong, well-constructed sentences. Academic excellence empowers the development of minds that can analyze, synthesize and execute. Throughout my career, my aim has been to instill in my faculty, staff and students a broad, imaginative and critical capacity; not a prematurely narrow point of view. I have sought to cultivate curiosity, creativity, and a lifelong love of learning and service, and to prepare students to confidently adapt to our rapidly changing global environment.
Living and traveling throughout Europe and Latin America, and the Far East has taught me to value different cultures and to embrace diversity of thought. Collectively, these experiences have taught me how to best expand an institution’s reach and academic standing by engendering trust, creating harmony between values, mission and passion. My life’s experiences have provided a rich tapestry of perspective that has made me keenly insightful. It drives my passion to help dreams become realities for others.
As an immigrant to this country and the first in my family to attend college in the United States, I know first-hand, the value of an education. I have created, implemented programs and rallied faculty, staff, and community partners to provide educational opportunities for minority, underserved and first generation students. I also understand the unique needs of non-traditional students. My graduate education was earned as a non-traditional student; studying, working, and looking after a young family.
As an educator, I recognize our obligation to train students to become ethical and responsible leaders in the world, to act with honor and character while focusing on action and outcomes. I hold the noblest purpose of education is to enable students to use their gifts, talents, knowledge, and resources to contribute to the common good of humanity.
Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell once wrote to his college-bound son, “It is important to do something worthwhile in this one life each of us is given by God. This does not mean making headlines or making the most money. Many who succeed at both are quite contemptible. It does mean using your ability in some calling or profession in a way that contributes something to your generation. It also means being a person of honor, character, patriotism, and civic consciousness and some leadership of your fellow citizens.”
It is our responsibility to model this way of life for our students.
I'm excited to announce that my new website is live at https://www.mirtamartin.com . Thank you to all who contributed your kinds words during the development process.
When we started the project we wanted to provide an authoritative source to present my ideas about leadership and the importance of change agents, and provide background about my history.
The website includes easy to use navigation, with dropdown menus for mobile and full desktop versions. I hope you find it easy to find what you are looking for when you visit, whether you are on a computer, tablet or mobile device.
The blog, which I will be adding to over the next several weeks, and other resources are available at a single click away. I have also published a gallery’s worth of images which I hope to expand upon further in future.