Editor’s note: Vermont By Degrees is a series of columns written by representatives of colleges and universities from around the state about the challenges facing higher education at this time.
As a Senior Military College, Norwich is known for its demanding and rewarding academic and student life program. Norwich students were among the earliest to build our nation’s bridges and railroads, and Norwich graduates have served in every armed conflict since the university’s founding in 1819. To this day, Norwich alumni cite the “I Will Try” motto as motivating them forward through life’s unexpected twists and turns and teaching them they can not only succeed, they can even flourish and lead with distinction and honor. Norwich graduates are among the top leaders in the military, government service and private business.
The Norwich path has never been easy. Students in the Corps of Cadets are up before dawn practicing physical training before heading to classes and spend evenings and weekends on sports and military field exercises. Civilian students live and study in a highly structured and demanding environment, learning and competing alongside their fellow students in the Corps of Cadets. Everyone in the Norwich community learns about, and gains an appreciation for, military culture and tradition. This is what students come to Norwich to do – to build things and to work with their hands and to get challenged personally, physically and academically.
Norwich students certainly have their challenges cut out for them this year navigating safely through a global pandemic, economic recession, national strife over the role of law enforcement in communities and great political division. This is the most challenging time any of us has faced. As we welcome students back to campus for the spring semester, the entire community faces greater challenges and must try even more than usual. We must continue the hard work of teaching and learning, of practicing the skills of good citizenship and community-building. These days, good citizenship includes covering our mouths and noses and maintaining a safe social distance from one another, actions that create even more challenges to communication and socializing.
Despite these extraordinary circumstances, it is hard not to feel optimistic about the role Norwich plays in leading difficult conversations with civility and creating solutions in critical aspects of society such as criminal justice, cybersecurity, combating the tools and methods of online extremism recruiting and dismantling misinformation and disinformation campaigns. The hands-on programs Norwich is known for, such as engineering, nursing, architecture, cybersecurity and criminal justice, are all built upon a strong foundation in the humanities. The humanities teach the skills of critical thinking, effective communication and how to harness creativity. They expose students to different cultures and inject the human questions into the technical fields that shape how society functions. They demand we ask questions such as “how is this going to change our world; how will it change the way people live?” It is in asking those questions that graduates with the skills and experience to become the framers and builders of society make sure they are proceeding with integrity and with humanity’s best interests at heart. This is how we build character.
That character includes a certain resilience, which defines a Norwich student. When students come to Norwich, they not only get the comradery and mentoring, academics and coaching, but they get to hear from leaders in many fields speak to them on topics of leadership and life.
There are other questions Norwich students are taught to ask themselves, too – questions of how we respond to challenge and how we react to disappointment and unexpected change. At Norwich, we not only interrogate our academic subjects, we also investigate our own internal motivations in order to become the strongest versions of ourselves. Given the extraordinary moment we are all living in, what better time than now to hone these invaluable skills.
To help us along that path, next month, Norwich University will host bestselling author, MacArthur Fellow and celebrated researcher, Angela Duckworth, who took the world by storm with her first book, “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”
Her TED Talk on the subject of grit is the most watched video in the series. Her grit scale survey, which you can find on her website, compares your results to those like you across the world. At 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, Duckworth will speak in real time in a virtual format about her good work on the topic of grit and resilience and how we build that in ourselves and in society and then viewers will be able to ask her questions about grit and resilience within this time of such uncertainty and upheaval. The event is called: “True Grit: The Surprising, and Inspiring, Science of Success.”
Please join us. This is a free event, and everyone is invited to attend.
Daphne Larkin serves as director of media relations & community affairs at Norwich University.
Vermont By Degrees is a series of weekly columns written by representatives of colleges and universities from around the state about the challenges facing higher education at this time.