Vice Chancellor’s Conference: Freedom and Responsibility – Leading from the front
It has been two years of roller-coaster experiences since our last in-person Vice Chancellor’s Conference. June 10, 2022, marked an auspicious return to the physical setting during the 5th Vice Chancellor’s conference, a meeting that brings together University staff members in positions of leadership and management to strike a way forward and reiterate the clarion call for the year. The team delved deeper into this year’s University theme: #FreedomAndResponsibility, so as to lead from the front.
The conference was full of insights delivered with doses of humour, and shared experiences that highlighted the struggles and gains, from both the staff and student perspective, that come from living the value, freedom and responsibility.
Freedom and Responsibility
Speaking during the conference, the Vice-Chancellor Designate, Dr. Vincent Ogutu, emphasized the reason for the conference: We are here to discover – how can I lead better? On living this year’s theme, he added, “We can’t imagine living a life of freedom without responsibility. It’s possible to be free but responsible and not feel like it’s a burden. The idea is to create a culture of freedom and responsibility, make it a part of the way we operate and then pass it on to generate that culture around us where people want to do the right thing.”
Rev. Dr. Ivan Mukalazi, representing the Pro-Chancellor’s Office, dwelt on freedom and responsibility from the supernatural perspective and St. Josemaria’s vision. “Without freedom, there’s no response to grace and one cannot give oneself to God and to others.” He reminded the participants that St. Josemaria, founder of Opus Dei, and the man behind the vision of Strathmore, was a champion of freedom and would want the staff members at the University to strive to foster freedom in all the people they deal with.
Throughout the conference, there was great emphasis on the need to embrace a life that comes with responsibility, pointing out that freedom cannot be dissociated from responsibility.
In reference to this, Dr. Caesar Mwangi, Group CEO, ICEA Insurance Holdings, quoted Monsignor Cormac Burke, author of ‘Man and Values’, who said, “No sense of personal freedom can be genuine if it is not accompanied by an equally personal sense of responsibility.” The keynote speaker touched on the consequences of the current trend in society, “Freedom without responsibility is the recipe for chaos and confusion as we so often see around us. ‘I will do as I wish, it is my life’, is the hollow cry that keeps getting louder and louder around us. With it we see the slide into unprecedented levels of confusion and frustration.”
A great take-away from his session was the idea that “We are free to choose how we react to situations, but we’re not free to influence everything that happens around us. We’re also not free from the consequences of our actions.”
Six months in
So far, the commitment and strive to act diligently in line with the theme has been consistent over the last five months with Mariam Nzangi, Head of the Housekeeping department, giving a testimonial on her role in offering freedom and responsibility to her team. She does this by emphasizing on loving what you do, the need to sacrifice, being a mentor/guide, showing commitment, allowing people to make mistakes, and giving people a chance to choose.
Fireside Chat Session
Part of the conference involved a plenary session to have an in-depth understanding of the theme and how it can be better inculcated.
The conversations centered around responsibility through experience, taking the initiative, empowering people to come up with ideas and actualize them. They also touched base on how to factor in freedom and responsibilities in the courses undertaken by Strathmore with the premise of coaching and mentoring to achieve the objectives.
The students were represented by members of the Student Council as they also play an integral role in actualizing the theme. Their thoughts and experiences help in fostering a prudent discussion on the way forward.
Maria Gitau, Informatics and Computer Science student and the female academic representative in the Council stated that mental health is playing a role in their ability to practice freedom and responsibility and there is a need to remedy the mental state among the students. She emphasized the need to create more space for the students on how to address the mental state spectrum regularly and early. “Our personal responsibility towards other people is key and sometimes the small things like acknowledging the students and acts of kindness like offering a cup of tea can go a long way,” said Maria.
The VC conference aims at highlighting how the theme of the year can be conveyed to each and every individual at Strathmore University and the role strategic leadership can play in exemplifying freedom and responsibility. The conference rallying call was clear and simple: let’s continue building on the trajectory of promoting freedom and responsibility at Strathmore University through a collective effort.
Dr. Majid Twahir, adjunct faculty at Strathmore University Business School stated that the theme should be put into practice not only during this year, but in the future. “We should reflect on the learnings from the theme and build on the lessons learned. We should live and grow with it,” he said.
Staff and students present also shared their progress in making the theme a possibility and the experiences they have encountered, culminating in a collective understanding and thrive to actualize the theme and share the knowledge impacted on them.
This article was written by Collins Kiprono and Wambui Gachari.
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