I went to the first meeting of the Fordham Young Alumni Executive Leadership series tonight. Father McShane talked a lot about responsibility--that it was Fordham's responsibility to become the preeminent Catholic University in the country. Along those lines I told Samara that it was our responsibility as Fordham bloggers to blog about what happened tonight and about all the enthusiasm and potential surrounding it.
Rick Mina, the CEO of Foot Locker, was the keynote speaker. He spoke about loving what you do and working your way to success "inch by inch." Rick, to me, characterized the Fordham success story. This was not necessarily a charismatic man of "vision." He was a determined man of hard work. He worked his way in from the ground floor. His greatness seemed to be a result rather than a desire, as opposed to someone like a Steve Case who clearly wanted to do something great from the beginning and was less than focused on the actual work that went in to getting the result. One of the alumni in our little business/finance breakout group brought up an issue about how many people coming out of Fordham achieve the level of success that Rick has. So many people from Fordham seem to end up in solid, but not spectacular... good, but not great careers. Of course, this is anecdotal, but the issue, by the admittance of the alumni mentors, seemed to have come up before. Why is this? What is it about the education at Fordham that seems to give people enough fuel for getting high up the ladder, but rarely to the top?
I think, to some extent, its confidence, which is just simply a perception of what you can handle. One of the alumni said, "Maybe we're just not telling the students, 'Hey, get out there and knock 'em dead.'" I actually think that, to a large extent, that's true. I don't think there is any difference in the willingness to work hard of Fordham students. In fact, I think they're willing to work harder than most, because they don't have the expectation of being handed anything for free, as opposed to an Ivy grad, perhaps. Certainly the quality of the education is there... I'd put a Jesuit education up against any other learning philosophy out there.
No, to some extent, its a matter of believing in yourself enough to take hold of one of those "dare to be great" situations. Its not about thinking that you yourself are great, but its holding out for a great opportunity or taking a risk on something with great potential. When Father McShane talks openly about Fordham becoming the preeminent Catholic university in the country, he is trying to get people to recognize that Fordham itself is a "dare to be great" situation. Unless you get people thinking like that you're never going to get there. We should think and act like a great school because there's no reason why we can't be.
Our basketball team should be going to the NCAA like St. John's has in recent memory. Our website should be cutting edge, not in its look, but in its functionality, truly connecting the university community in new and exciting ways. Little things, like our alumni softball team should have cool jerseys, not just t-shirts, because we're proud to be at Fordham and we're willing to invest in the brand. Oh, and we need a blog, too. I'd like to get the accumulated wisdom of every last one of the 100 President's Council members, the eager young alumni, and the excited students up on the web to get distributed in a stream to the world via RSS. We need to shout to the world on every medium possible how great we are.
I saw tonight a contagious enthusiasm for Fordham's potential and I think it needs to be harnessed and brought back to the student body in a more deliberate manner. I told Charles Spinelli, a Fordham alum in my breakout group, that he needed to go back to campus to pass on the same inspiring words he shared in our group with the students. I misspoke. Fordham needs him to go back and share those words with the students. Fordham students need to burst out of this school like gangbusters ready to affect the world around them in a deeply profound way. That doesn't necessarily mean trampling the guy next to you, but it does mean finding a situation that positions you to lead by example, to reach the top in a positive and productive way. Ask not how you can be great, Fordham students, alumni, faculty, and administrators, but ask what is the great situation with the great potential that you are going to throw yourselves into without fear of failure, or even worse, fear of success.