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Three Voices That Shape Our Vision: An Inauguration Celebration Webinar Series

by Helen Edelman

How it started

The idea for the webinar series was presented by Patrice DeCoster, former chief of staff in the Office of the President and chairwoman of the Inauguration Planning Committee, in September 2013. Center for Mentoring and Learning Senior Staff Assistant for Faculty Development Karen LaBarge was a member of the committee, and was asked whether she and College Professor of Adult Learning Alan Mandell would be willing to coordinate such an event. The webinars would derive their focus from three quotes President Merodie A. Hancock had chosen to represent the inauguration theme, “re-emergence.” The quotes were taken from the written works of Nelson Mandela, Ernest Boyer and Aristotle. After some brainstorming, the webinar planning committee – Director of the Center for Mentoring and Learning Katherine Jelly, LaBarge, Center for Distance Learning Dean Tom Mackey, Mandell, Metropolitan Center Mentor Gina Torino and Chairwoman of Teacher Education Tina Wagle – agreed on a plan in early November 2013.

A Three-Part Webinar Series

The committee was excited to have an opportunity to think about important ideas and values as part of the larger inaugural celebration. They considered finding three people who could best use the quotes to help colleagues think more deeply about President Hancock’s vision for Empire State College. Thus, a three-part webinar series was developed called, “Three Voices That Shape Our Vision.” The committee and other college faculty suggested a variety of speakers; the following were selected:


Saleem Badat, vice chancellor of Rhodes University in South Africa. Badat has been at the forefront of access and fairness issues in higher education in South Africa and around the world. He spoke on the Nelson Mandela quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


James W. Hall, founding president of SUNY Empire State College. Hall worked closely with State University of New York Chancellor Ernest L. Boyer Sr. in the establishment of ESC. He, thus, was uniquely qualified to address Boyer’s quote, “Education is a seamless web: one level of learning relates to every other.”


Elizabeth Minnich, senior scholar with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. As a philosopher, she has written extensively about the very nature of knowledge and its “transformation.” Minnich’s talk centered on the Aristotle quote, “All men by nature desire to know.”

Each of these free sessions drew between 75 and 90 participants, including Empire State College faculty, staff and administrators and colleagues from outside the college.  The webinars were open to the public.

The complete Blackboard Collaborate recordings and accompanying PowerPoint slides are available at http://cml.esc.edu/resources/materials/presentations.