Faculty, staff, and students of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs had a joyous reunion of sorts on Wednesday as they gathered in person to hear Dean Nisha Botchwey deliver her first State of the School address.
It was the first time the entire school community came together in the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Let’s think about that for a moment and feel some appreciation for all of the steps we have collectively taken to get to this point,” said Botchwey, who became dean in January. “I am grateful, and so very thankful, to see each of you here.”
Botchwey spoke of the Humphrey School as a community, centering her remarks around the Zulu term Ubuntu, which means ‘I am, because we are.’
“We are part of an enduring community, made better by our shared values of public service and impact, that bring about more equitable and inclusive communities because of our actions,” she said, adding that the School came together as a community to address the challenges of the past two years.
“I am inspired by your commitment to the important work of public affairs, especially as we navigated the continued onslaught of a global health pandemic and persistent racial injustice,” she said. “I see a School community of staff, faculty, and students, alumni, and friends who declared by their words and made evident by their actions that despite the circumstance, we will persevere and make our communities and world a better place for everyone.”
Botchwey noted that the pandemic had an impact on the School’s budget and enrollment, but both those benchmarks are now on the rebound, with increasing enrollment trends this current academic year and the next.
“I am pleased to say, the state of the Humphrey School is strong,” she said.
Botchwey outlined her key priorities for the coming year—to strengthen the School’s curriculum, research, and pathways to public service leadership.
- Curriculum: "We will continue to innovate educational experiences by building on the technological advancements in teaching that emerged in response to the pandemic. This will enhance student learning in current course offerings, and expand offerings to engage different types of students in greater Minnesota and nationally."
- Research: "We will expand and amplify our global reach and impact. Research is and will continue to be woven throughout our curriculum, equipping students with the cutting-edge evidence, practices, and tools to be successful in their chosen fields."
- Pathways to public service leadership: "We will expand these pathways by broadening access to Humphrey School degrees, certificates, and non-credit cohort programs."
In addition, Botchwey committed to deepening the School's focus around diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice efforts, both academically and operationally.
Given the level of skepticism and mistrust of public institutions that’s so prevalent these days, Botchwey said the Humphrey School’s role as a leading public policy institution is as important as ever.
“We—as a community—are poised to solve what I call the wicked problems faced by society that one discipline alone cannot handle. We need to focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes, changes that determine the rules by which society is governed,” she said.
“As Hubert Humphrey said, this School should be a place for dialogue, dissent, and debate. So our students and faculty and staff can come to the table and bring people of different perspectives and experiences to the table, to have conversations and build bridges. We’ll be better for it – and our world will be better for it.”