Miami University’s commitment to international engagement, social justice, and diversity draws on the deep roots of Western College for Women that became part of our family through the establishment of the Western College Alumnae Association more than 40 years ago. In the past year, I have experienced the ongoing benefits of collaboration and the honor of being associated with that courageous institution and its loyal, generous, and rightly proud Western College Alumnae Association.
When it comes to international engagement, Western was far ahead of its time. In the mid-1950s, the college was recruiting international students and faculty, offering international travel seminars for students, and emphasizing global awareness and cultural studies in its courses. That’s about 30 years before “globalization” became a buzzword in business, politics, sociology, and culture.
The wonderful Western College Legacy Circle that we dedicated this summer, where the institution’s history is permanently etched, highlights this dimension with a compass design that reaches out in all directions. Our own international efforts, reaching out into the world and bringing the world to Oxford, owe much to this pioneering legacy.
At home, Western was again ahead of its time. Like many people, I knew of Western’s pivotal role in Freedom Summer, when about 800 people – including the martyred civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner – gathered for two weeks on campus for training to empower African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. What an unforgettable experience this summer to travel to Philadelphia, Mississippi, and receive the 2017 Civil Rights and Social Justice award from the National Civil Rights Conference with Western alumna Fran Hoffman while our own Ann Elizabeth Armstrong received an individual award for her community engagement efforts related to Freedom Summer. That memory inspires us in our time to uphold social justice and inclusion, recognizing the rights and dignity of every person as our Code of Love and Honor declares.
For more than a century after Western was founded, this open, inclusive, innovative, welcoming campus stood as a distinct institution alongside Miami, separated only by Patterson Avenue. Today we are enriched by the synergies, collaborations, and partnership over the years, and we look forward to how our union and our shared values will advance society far into the future.