SPEECH: Presidential Candidate of Choice Dr. Rebecca Stoltzfus

On Wednesday, June 14, Presidential Candidate of Choice Dr. Rebecca Stoltzfus spoke to the campus community about how she is prepared to lead Goshen College. The following is the video and Dr. Stoltzfus’ notes from that presentation. 

» See photos from Dr. Stoltzfus’ visit

I have been a professor and researcher at two universities: The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I lead a research group that carries out collaborative and interdisciplinary research to advance the health of women and children in low-resource communities globally.

As an academic leader at Cornell, I want to highlight three things that I think are relevant to my work here at Goshen College.

  • In 2007, I worked with a team of faculty to create Cornell’s university-wide program in global health, and I served as the faculty director of that program for 9 years, in doing that I drew deeply upon my own experience at Goshen College and the SST program at Goshen College, creating global health experiential learning programs for undergraduate students in Tanzania, Zambia, India and the Dominican Republic.
  • I was subsequently tapped by the provost to help envision a new public engagement initiative at Cornell. We developed a truly ambitious proposal that we called Engaged Cornell, a university-wide agenda with three strategic goals: student and faculty engagement, productive partnerships, and transformative influence on Cornell and public education more broadly. I played a leading role in conceiving and writing this proposal, which resulted in major gifts to the university.
  • In 2016, just a year ago, I accepted the role of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. In this role I am responsible for initiatives in academic diversity, learning support for our students, innovations in academic technologies, and a wide variety of policy issues related to undergraduate education – for our 14,000 undergraduate students.

Outside of my work, I love walking and being in nature. I am a pretty good amateur singer, and a rather eclectic sports fan (I’ll have to figure out the lay of the land in sports in Northern Indiana, and see if I want to shift any of my allegiances from Maryland and New York teams). I read a lot of poetry, and I am a pretty good cook.

Dr. Rebecca Stoltzfus speaks to campus on June 14, 2017.

So why have I chosen to return to Goshen College?

I believe in Goshen College’s vision to be a leader in liberal arts education focusing on international, intercultural, interdisciplinary, and integrative teaching and learning.

I deeply respect the Goshen College faculty and staff. You are brilliant and committed educators committed to students’ learning and to students’ lives. I don’t say that lightly. You educate in your classrooms, offices, in fields (fields of athletics and fields of prairie grasses), laboratories and concert halls, and very importantly through your relationships with one another and with our students.

I am inspired by Goshen students.  I am inspired by what I see of your passion, your curiosity and inquiry, your creativity, your athletic discipline and achievements. I want to understand your aspirations for Goshen College, your experience here,  and to work on some shared goals together.

I am eager to invest in this local community here in Elkhart County and in Goshen. Goshen College is a source of creativity and leadership locally. I see big and small indications of engagement and reciprocity between the local community and Goshen College. I paid attention when the mayor of Goshen welcomed my daughter’s first-year class to Goshen in 2014. I notice the synergies between the Good of Goshen and Goshen College collaborations with the Goshen City School District, the local businesses being started by Goshen college alumni who have discovered here a sense of place, a solid economy, an affordable cost of living, and a diverse and inviting community.

I see the generous work of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County. I see Goshen Health across the street and wonder how we might partner more together. Goshen College is an engine for social and economic mobility in Elkhart County, and I take that as a serious responsibility as well as opportunity.

I am committed to Goshen’s always-evolving relationship to the Mennonite Church USA and to Anabaptist Mennonite communities broadly, in their variety and diversity. Goshen College has long been a source of creativity, leaders, and passion within the church. Goshen College has also been a source of tension!

I affirm Goshen College’s role as a community of learning that participates in the tensions of the church in the world. Tension is a form of energy that can propel us to grow in generative ways.

I affirm Goshen College’s commitment to be Christ-centered. Let Christ be the center, and let the boundaries be permeable. Draw the circle wide. I hope that Goshen can be a radically welcoming place, rooted and centered in Christ.

Why Goshen College? Because I am optimistic about its future and want to be a part of creating it.

A president is, among other things, a vision-keeper. Ultimately, the vision for Goshen College must be co-created by its faculty, governing board, and other stakeholders in addition to the president. However, this morning I offer several elements that I envision for Goshen College.

I envision that Goshen College continues to provide an excellent liberal arts education. I use this term liberal arts in the root sense of an education that liberates students to explore ideas, the world, relationships, and ultimately to live a meaningful creative life. Goshen College education awakens students to their passions and their capacities.

Goshen College must also prepare students for careers. The lifetime wage difference of a bachelor’s degree compared to a high school diploma is now estimated to be right around $1 million.

Out of the 11.5 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.4 million of them went to workers that had at least some college education. Goshen College offers an extremely valuable product.

I envision that Goshen College recruits and retains a vibrant student body, responsive to our distinctive mission, but who are diverse in geography, faith heritage, gender, and racial and social identities. Goshen’s emerging identity as a Hispanic-serving institution is a strongly positive development, and I hope to build upon President Brenneman’s vision for this. Goshen’s campus culture and community must invite and commit to full participation and equity for all of our students.

I envision Goshen College creating and sustaining mutually rewarding relationships and partnerships, oriented toward education and restorative social change in communities. These relationships and partners include the City of Goshen and Elkhart County, their businesses and community-based organizations, other Indiana institutions, and national and international communities yet to be strategically defined in light of our strengths and commitments.

I envision that Goshen College will continue to be a community of personal and social transformation. Goshen College liberates students from systems of ignorance and oppression, educating them to see oppressive structures and systems and equipping them to transform them in creative and life-giving ways. Such an education is both Christ-centered and cosmopolitan, sitting confidently in the crossroads of pluralism in our American democracy.

In the face of the social injustices and systems of violence that are increasingly clear and present to us, the transformative education that Goshen offers is urgent work.

The world, the church broadly speaking, we as a human species on a fragile planet, need education that equips with more than knowledge, and more than the privilege that comes with job preparation.

Goshen’s core values are an expression of how redemptive love acts in the world. They are the additional organic ingredients that can bend knowledge and power toward a more just and free and loving reality—for us as individuals and for us as a society.

Passionate learners: people who wake up eager to learn something new every day, from books, from conversations, from research, from experience and reflection

Compassionate peacemakers: people who see violence and injustice, and who are not afraid to grieve it and be moved by it, and who have the courage and skills to act in the face of it.

Servant leaders: people who are able to create and mobilize resources and relationships to bring about new things. To move ideas and agendas forward. [people who use their capabilities in service to something bigger than themselves]

Global citizens: people who deeply appreciate human and cultural diversity and whose identities are not bound up in [tribalism] nationalism and other forms of ego-fortification

Goshen’s core value of global citizenship recognizes that we live at once in two communities: our community of origin, and the global human community.

The poet, Mary Oliver, writes:

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

What does this mean for liberal arts education? Philosopher Martha Nussbaum expresses this well: “Ethical inquiry requires a climate in which [students] are required to be critical of their habits and conventions . . . . to become, to a certain extent, philosophical exiles of our own ways of life, seeing them from the vantage point of the outsider and asking the questions an outsider is likely to ask about their meaning and function.”

Or, in the words of Goshen College professor and author, Dan Hess: To see “from the other’s point of view.”

These are not ideas original to Goshen College, but they are brought to life at Goshen College in particularly innovative and courageous ways.

Most fundamentally, what brings me back to Goshen College is the possibility that the education we provide is one that integrates reason and love.

An education that teaches us to unite our minds and our hearts.

How does one lead toward such a vision?

With a deep sense of humility.

No one could do this alone. I would be honored to join the capable leaders who are already here at Goshen.

And yet, here are some things that I would commit to you as president of Goshen College.

I name these seven values as particularly important commitments to me:

Relationships. Organizations run at the speed of trust. Social capital is created one room, one conversation at a time.

Truth. I value facing the truth and communicating honestly.

Excellence. I value setting the bar high, striving for ambitious goals.

Stewardship. I value being financially secure, and to nurture and sustain all of the college’s resources for future generations.

Diversity. I value engaging a variety of perspectives, identities and experiences. I am not afraid to disagree, or to be questioned.

Growth. I value change and adaptation. Let Goshen be a place of growth personally, professionally and organizationally.

Enthusiasm. I value work carried out with joy and spirit.

I will lead with a sense of urgency, recognizing that the challenges we face are real and pressing, but also with optimism and a great belief in the abundance and power of this community. Goshen College is a strong institution.

I will lead remembering that this is not about me. This is about the Spirited creative work that Goshen College is doing on our campuses and in the world, through our faculty, our students, our staff, our alumni, our friends, and through our partners and partnerships locally and around the world.

Lastly, I will lead with your help. Like all Goshen’s prior presidents, I will work hard. I ask you to share with me your knowledge and wisdom, your critical questions, your generosity, your prayers, your kindness, and your good will.