November is CUNY Month, which this year coincides with heightened interest in higher education, following President Obama’s recently proposed plan to enhance college affordability and accountability.
It’s a fitting, if unplanned, coincidence. The open houses, workshops, and public events on all of our campuses this month are reminders of the University’s remarkable mission to ensure that all students have access to a high-quality education. Students and families learning about CUNY for the first time will begin to discover what the president meant when he said that “higher education is the best investment you can make in your future.”
They’ll find faculty members who are experts in their fields — and experts in opening those fields for exploration by students. They’ll find interactions with other students that will illuminate and challenge their thinking. And they’ll find opportunities to expand those conversations and ideas into internships, study abroad, research and service.
They’ll find at The City University of New York a vibrant hub of teaching and learning that reflects the city of its name — inquisitive, bold, engaged — and is deeply committed to the life of the mind, the fostering of intellectual connections. That connectedness, among ideas, people and possibilities, defines our graduates’ success: to find in the pursuit of knowledge unexpected paths to discovery and advancement.
As federal policymakers grapple with ways to make higher education more accessible, affordable and accountable, it’s worth remembering the idea that launched The City University of New York, articulated by the founder of The Free Academy, Townsend Harris: “Open the doors to all — let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct, and intellect.” Rightly imagined, education is indeed an opening of doors, a leading out, as the word’s Latin root suggests.
That CUNY has helped well over a million alumni — from every background, with every aspiration — to enrich their lives and those of countless others is a testament to the power of its fundamental mission. That’s surely something to celebrate this CUNY Month.
— William P. Kelly