Dear W Community,
As my fourth year as President of The W draws to a close, I have chosen my Founder's Day message to continue our conversation about building a safe, ethical university community to ensure every member of our University family is valued and respected. This year I want to highlight our commitment to embracing diversity of thought, cultural background, experience, and identity to foster an inclusive and intellectually enriched university community.
One of Mississippi's great strengths is the diversity of its people, and today our university community reflects this rich tapestry. The W is strengthened both by our remarkable diversity and the accompanying civility that informs a wonderful spirit of inclusion and acceptance.
Our university is also a place where critical thinking is nurtured, differences of opinion and belief are explored and celebrated, and the very best of who we are as a people is passed from one generation of students to the next. Robert Frost might have best captured this element of an education when he said, “education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self confidence.” Every day we strive to live up to our noble ideal, “we study for light to bless with light.”
In 2016 The W will observe the 50th Anniversary of our desegregation. This was an important milestone in our long, storied history. It marks a time where we can clearly see what was before and what came after. Our exceptional faculty in History and Women’s Studies guided our students as they pored over university records and other historic documents to build our understanding of this undocumented—until now—period of our history.
Even more remarkable are the oral histories today’s students have recorded of those pioneers whose courage created the opportunity for all those who came next. Their sacrifices made possible the university we are today, one that fully embraces the diversity of our great state. Faculty in History, Art and Design, and other departments on campus will help W students create the exhibits, murals, and scholarship that will share this history with the public during the commemoration year. In this way, learning by doing finds new purpose.
This exploration comes at a time when there has been much discussion in Mississippi about our state flag. I have encouraged our students and the university community to have dialogues about the issues surrounding our flag, seeing this as a teaching and learning opportunity for us all. My personal belief is that we should have a flag that unites, one that represents everyone in Mississippi. I hope there will be continuing discussion, especially in this landmark year for our university.
In the coming months I encourage you to participate in the programs, exhibits, and activities as The W commemorates this important time in our beloved university’s history. Information will be on the university website, in Visions, and publicized throughout the coming year.
Our University remains strong and our future bright. Your unwavering support of our students, faculty, and staff encourages all of us.
Until the next time,
Jim Borsig, Ph.D.