Photo: Dr. Mark Anarumo stands beside granite statue of Norwich founder Alden Partridge

The Value of Community

NORWICH RECORD | Winter 2021

It is not hyperbole to say 2020 has presented an incredibly complex series of challenges for our country and the world. Fortunately, as one of the nation’s great universities, Norwich has leveraged these crises as opportunities to lead and influence global conversations, and to enhance our community of learning. The term community has been a hallmark of Norwich’s identity for generations. It is now the core quality that has propelled us into a national success story in the face of a pandemic.

Building the Norwich community and leveraging talent from across our organization are the keys to our current success. I have always believed stove-piped culture kills organizations, a perspective magnified in the COVID-19 environment. Ineffective organizations protect hierarchies, perpetuating silos or sub-communities instead of establishing a collaborative culture. Simply put, communities are ineffective when members do not work together, and any successes that are achieved rarely, if ever, endure beyond the very short term.

Organizations are failing in the current environment, including many higher-education institutions, because they have preserved hierarchical structures instead of encouraging teamwork and agility. This is particularly striking given the value placed on collaboration by the current generation of learners. Norwich students and their peers now entering the workforce prefer the team approach and thrive in small groups. Successful organizations leverage these preferences and skills and are successful due to the inherent agility of this culture shift. Agile and collaborative organizations are also winning the talent competition by building communities where all members “buy in” and the team moves forward, together. There is a reason we now say, “Norwich Together, Norwich Forever.” We cannot be Corps vs. civilian, or faculty vs. staff, or resident vs. online. We will succeed only when we celebrate ourselves as Norwich…together.

These same dynamics and measures of success apply to communities, cities, and nations, which is why I believe the entire world needs Norwich University graduates now more than they have at any time in our history. At the moment, our national sense of community is frayed. The toxicity of social media is destroying our sense of community and has eroded trust in multiple industries. We have stopped listening to one another. We have been talking over one another for so long that we’ve ceased to appreciate the perspectives of others, and generally have lost the capability of civil discourse. When contemplating the current state of our world, it is remarkable to consider the power of the words in our mission statement: “…to tolerate all opinions when reason is left free to combat them…” Those words, written in 1843, continue to guide our university and can serve as a beacon for those outside our community of learning.

As we educate the next generation of leaders, I am committed to reinvigorating civil discourse, encouraging it, and making it part of the fabric of Norwich. It will make our graduates as highly valued as alumni of any institution in the world, seen as high-performing leaders and problem solvers. Norwich graduates will be known as agile decision makers, with the moral and ethical foundation to restore honor and integrity where it has otherwise been lost.

Norwich is prepared to lead the way. As we embrace our third century of service, we will focus on equipping our students with skills that go beyond what was effective in addressing challenges of the past. We will build into every graduate the skills required to creatively solve the problems of today and, more important, the challenges of tomorrow.

How we work together, how we listen to one another, how we approach problems as a community matters. When we do it right at Norwich, it is noticed far and wide. Through the current crises, we have exported the “I Will Try” spirit to our Vermont community and our nation and are now focused on showing the world who we are.

By modeling within our community an agile and empathetic mindset focused on the future, we become the example we need to be for all: Norwich Together, ensuring Norwich Forever.

Norwich Together, Norwich Forever!
Dr. Mark C. Anarumo, Colonel, USAF (Ret)

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