Values are a variety of ingredients cooked together to bring out a particular flavor
These were some of the sentiments shared by our Vice Chancellor Designate, Dr. Vincent Ogutu during the fourth culture committee webinar dubbed Living the SU Culture in 2021. The moderator, Mr. Roy Were, a member of the Culture Committee, guided the discussion.
Where it all began
“Strathmore did not start with a culture. Different people from different backgrounds came together creating different ways of harmoniously working with one another. The merger of the different facets is what became a way of doing things. Culture is created when people, through a set of interactions, create a way of doing things. Remember people are not coming from a vacuum, but from different backgrounds, that then become a source of influence. All this is then integrated into what we often call culture.
Further, the Strathmore spirit as many refer to our culture, cannot be touched, yet it exists and controls how we do things. Did you know that since its inception, Strathmore School had no written rules and prefects? It provided a space for students to be free and responsible. Funnily, when one was in Form Three, it was easy to guide a student in Form One towards the Strathmore way. Culture, seen as a spirit, makes us move in a certain direction. Interestingly, a study on why we do what we do at Strathmore, would take us all the way back to St. Josemaría Escrivá’s mother, and sister. We affectionately refer to them as the Grandma and Aunt Carmen respectively. They were largely responsible for the care St. Josemaria’s followers have traditionally put in little details and creating a family atmosphere wherever they went. In his family, attention to details and cleanliness was key. This is one of the things that has been passed down to all of us. Are you a parent? Do you know you are creating a certain culture for perhaps four future generations?
What are the positive elements of the SU culture?
Our values are beautiful and worth promoting and developing. We must understand that values are the building blocks of culture. A value is so deep that it controls how you intrinsically feel, think and act. A good example was during the 2018 world cup when Japan beat Columbia 2- 1. Immediately after the match, the Japanese swept clean the stadium making headlines worldwide. What was a shock for the world was a way of life for them. Cleanliness for the Japanese is something they do daily. Their culture teaches them to clean up after themselves, especially when they’re still students at school where they take turns to supervise the cleaning done by other students. This teaches them respect for their environment, leadership skills, supervisory skills, and honor. It makes them see people who do housekeeping work as their equals, which fosters respect. This act by the Japanese shows how deeply a culture can be ingrained so that an entire population behaves in a certain way without being compelled.
Moreover, our Strathmore values can be lived at SU, at home and in the community. Our values cause each one of us to experience a sense of freedom while also respecting each other’s boundaries. Whereas there are many good values out there, when one picks a particular combination of them, the end result is a particular feel that is created. Values can therefore be referred to as ingredients you cook with and if you pick certain ingredients, you create a certain flavor, ours being an environment of excellent work, yet with a certain free easy feel about it.
One of our great values is freedom and responsibility. Our founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá, encouraged everyone who wanted to be part of Opus Dei to join the institution freely rather than by being compelled. When you are free, you keep time to attend to things because you respect other people’s time rather than out of compulsion or fear of punishment. There is always the push and pull between compliance versus culture. Compliance is external. For the show, for the cameras. Culture on the other hand is internal where one does something because they believe in it, want to do it and are proud to do it, such that even if the punishments and rewards are removed, we would do it anyway because we believe in it.
In a nutshell, the fewer rules and enforcement we will need to do good work, the more Strathmore we will become.
How can we all embrace the SU culture?
Everyone in Strathmore can teach at any given time. It is not only in the classroom where teaching takes place. Sometimes I go to the cafeteria and given my Eastlands background, I tend to be a bit rough on the edges and the cafeteria staff always remind me to do things the Strathmore way and not be too casual. So, we always need to be learning and teaching, and in this case, they become my teachers.
When we teach in class, we could use the example of our well-kept gardens to explain what excellence looks like and how it can be applied in different domains. Inspiration plays a big role in teaching values. When people look at your work and wonder why anyone would have put so much effort into a particular piece of work, then they get inspired.”
What an inspiring session on the SU way and what little nuggets to learn from on how to become more Strathmore. It does not matter whether you joined a month ago or a decade ago, there is always a rough area in each of us that can be sharpened to excellence as iron sharpens iron.
A lot more was discussed including what type of management style he will adopt as he takes the helm, but I will allow you to listen to the recording which will be shared during the week.
Remember, the way you will do anything is the way you will do everything. Tafakari!
This article was written by Anne Njeri Njoroge.
What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org