Croft Institute for International Studies 20th Anniversary

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Friday, October 5, 2018, 2 p.m.
Croft 107

Good afternoon, and welcome. It’s a pleasure to join you all for this celebration of one of the bright lights of our university.

I’d like to thank Dr. Dinius and all of the organizers of today’s events. For two decades, Croft has been one of our university’s most prestigious, rigorous, and valuable academic programs. In its relatively short history, Croft has enhanced the reputation of our university.

I’d like to thank the Abdalla family for their enduring commitment to Ole Miss through their unprecedented donation of $60 million from the Bancroft Fund. That decision has rippled through our university and enriched the lives of countless students. Those students, in turn, have pursued distinguished academic and career opportunities in the U.S. and around the world. Their successes reflect positively on this university and carry our name to the far corners of the globe.

The fundamental purpose and enduring commitment of the University of Mississippi is the pursuit of academic excellence. In the Flagship Forward strategic plan that we released last fall, Academic Excellence was the first pillar because it has always been, and always will be, our chief priority.

The Croft Institute is a shining example of what we mean by Academic Excellence. What distinguishes Croft? It offers a unique, inter-disciplinary curriculum that demands critical thinking, analytical ability, and more. It’s rigorous, including requirements for foreign language proficiency, study abroad experiences, and experiential learning through internships. It attracts highly competitive, driven students. It’s exactly the kind of academic program we’re dedicated to fostering.

Each pillar in the Flagship Forward plan is supported by a transformative initiative and a set of goals. The first goal within the plan is to “Enhance the Quality of Academic Programs.” How do we do this? We do it by integrating “meaningful, experiential learning opportunities into all undergraduate, professional, and graduate academic programs to attract talented, diverse students and to prepare them for careers as lifelong learners and engaged citizens.”

Another major goal of the plan is to “Educate and Engage Global Citizens.” What does that mean? We want to foster student awareness of international perspectives. We want to create opportunities for our students to interact with people from around the world, both on our campus and abroad.

The educational experience at Croft should come with its own passport because each aspect of the curriculum is like a passport stamp marking the journey that each student takes in becoming a global citizen. By probing the international connections between politics, economics, culture, and more, our students are exposed to the real world that we inhabit. They gain the knowledge needed to thrive — and critical thinking skills that will serve them for a lifetime. Through study abroad experience, students broaden their perspectives and develop foreign language skills that employers need.

These are the kinds of experiences that represent the best of what the University of Mississippi offers its students. These endeavors are enlightening, noble, and exciting. They’re also an asset in supporting and growing our status as a leading institution of higher learning.

Finally, I’d like to say a little bit about the culture of the Croft Institute. At Ole Miss, we’re no strangers to school spirit. Our community is a family, and it’s very supportive. But Croft takes that notion a step further through the level of dedication of its faculty, students, staff, leaders, and supporters, including everyone speaking today. Croft students are very proud of their degrees — and when it comes to academic excellence, student engagement is the key to nurturing a culture that values learning above all else.

Now I’m pleased to turn the floor over to Chancellor Khayat. Robert, you played an essential role in shaping what we see around us and making Ole Miss a “great American University.” Your legacy includes too many fantastic distinctions to name here. Croft is certainly one of the greatest among them. I look forward to hearing your remarks about the formation of the Croft Institute and your leadership in its creation.

Thank you.