This post was written by guest writer and BbWorld 2012 VIP Blogger, Lacie Crone.

Remember the days when student orientation began with “look to the left, now look to the right, our goal is that all three of you graduate.” No? That wasn’t the speech you heard? Me neither, until today. Conference keynote speaker, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski took the stage with a dynamic and engaging message of responsibility, creativity, innovation, and student success.

Before the keynote address began, I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Hrabowski in the green room. It was evident to me from the moment I shook his hand that we were in for a powerful afternoon. There are plenty people who can get on a stage with a well-written speech and with enough effort generate excitement. After all, we have how many products being sold on TV? This however, is not the case with Freeman Hrabowski; he is genuinely invested in his message and excited to share it with the everyone, particularly the next generation. While discussing student engagement and success, he shared a text message he had received the previous week from a former student. The message included words of thanks for previous encouragement she had received from him during her education. Included in the message was a picture of her employee ID…as a physician. As an undergraduate student she hadn’t believed that she had what it took to take on a medical career but credits her success in part to the consistently encouraging message she had received from him. How many university presidents do you think receive a text like that?

Once on stage, the magnitude of belief in his message was clear. After sharing some stories, and pointing out why he used stories instead of just concepts, he left us with the challenge to be the leaders who educate the campus leaders to elevate our student’s experience and success. We need to stop making decisions based on anecdotal information and mine Blackboard for the data: what works, what doesn’t, how does student engagement with the LMS relate to student success, and how do our students want to learn. We have been talking about access, but now it is time to be talking about success. Lastly, we must believe that the student to the left, the student to the right, and the student in the middle all have the power to succeed.

Don’t miss the opportunity to read about Dr. Hrabowski. You can also have the opportunity to become infected with his enthusiasm by watching this CNN interview.

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  • Jim Hermens

    The power of Dr. Hrabowski’s message was evident for me when he asked all first generation college grads in the audience to stand for a rousing applause. He moved me and the crowd. Best keynote I’ve experienced at 9 BbWorlds.