February 19, 2018 at 11:30am
Dr. Patrick E. White

Changing Millikin, Changing the World

Each year, when I welcome our new class of first-year, transfer and graduate students, I am careful to note that Millikin has long been a great university, but I go on to say, “If we all work together, Millikin will be a better place because you are here.” I do this to remind us all that Millikin is not just a place to fit into; it is a stage for enacting great possibilities. In our commitment to Performance Learning, we are all dedicated to a concept of Millikin as a place where students and alumni perform our future. Through this performance, Millikin will be changed for the better. This can be a daunting proposition. Some of us, whether we came to Millikin four years ago or 50, might say, “Well, Millikin is just fine. Millikin was just great when I was a student. We don’t need to change.”  

Sorry, too late. Millikin began changing as soon as you set foot on campus and began to make your mark; and it continues to change.

Mills is gone. Hessler is gone. The World War II era barracks are long gone. A new University Commons opened and is full of possibilities, and a new Workman Family Softball Field has already transformed the future of that sport at Millikin in just one season.

These are just some of the physical changes. Millikin is more than these buildings, these halls, this plot of ground. Millikin lives and moves and has its being in each of us, especially you — the students, alumni, staff, faculty and friends who manifest your love and dedication through your actions and words: “Millikin is my university.” This sense of ownership comes with pride in who we are and what we have accomplished, but even more, it is borne in hope and promise as we work together to discover and perform our best imagination of what we can become.

Through Millikin’s Performance Learning, we commit ourselves to engender the courage to grow and develop, to learn from one another and the world around us. We expect to be challenged by ideas, actions, persons and attitudes that may discomfit us at times, but prepare us to take our part in the grand performance of our lives at Millikin and beyond.

I often hear alumni say, “Millikin changed my life. Millikin gave me the courage and confidence to do things in my career and life that I never thought possible.” How do we do that? It is more than teaching people the skills and knowledge to succeed. Skills and knowledge alone will not guarantee confidence; and confidence without experience, knowledge and openness to others can lead to arrogance and a closed mind. Through Performance Learning, Millikin offers challenge in an environment of support, where students develop the courage to question not only the ideas of others but their own convictions. Here we gain the confidence to think for ourselves, the bravery to act when action is required, and the resilience and flexibility to change our minds.

I have the privilege of seeing this bravery in action every day. Last spring’s traditional commencement student speaker Haley Hogenkamp gained the courage, skill and experience to study human rights in Switzerland, to be a part of Millikin entrepreneurs venturing to Denmark and to collaborate with international business associates in Ecuador. Now, Haley has joined the Peace Corps to work in Macedonia for equality and youth development.

Eric Zollinger ’97, one of the distinguished alumni speakers at last spring’s commencement ceremonies, attended MU before we used the term, but clearly Performance Learning gave him the confidence to believe not only that he could perform as a singer and a dancer, but that he could seize the opportunity to become a leader in Manhattan residential real estate, an active volunteer and church leader, and a member of the Millikin Board of Trustees.

It is Performance Learning that led Hadisa Wali ’17, an already engaged and recognized leader for women’s rights in Afghanistan, to become an even stronger advocate for political progress.

It is a changing and growing Millikin that encouraged Professor Alex Miller to create Shakespeare Corrected at the Decatur Correctional Center, working with incarcerated women to perform full-length Shakespeare plays, and thus, changing their lives.

Performance Learning is not easy nor is it uncomplicated. This year, as we inaugurate the Doug and Diane Oberhelman Center for Leadership Performance, we recognize even more deeply that a Millikin education demands hard work, patience with one another, a commitment to civil discourse and the ambition to make a difference.  

I hope you take pride in knowing that, as you support Millikin, you support a vibrant, growing university, a life-changing experience for us all. I thank you for your ideas, your steadfast support, and your commitment. As you help change Millikin, you change the world.

Sincerely yours in Millikin,

Dr. Patrick E. White
Millikin University President


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