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Letter from the Head of School

Nine C’s for the Future

Dear Friends,

We have just passed the annual milestones of first semester and early college admissions. Before we know it a new year will be upon us with several more milestones ahead, culminating in the commencement of the Class of 2019. On that day we will celebrate the completion of an educational process that has long been focused on what our students should know and be able to do to be happy and successful in college and life beyond.

To understand the skills and knowledge that our graduates may need to thrive in the future, we must make educated guesses about what it might hold in store for them. This fall I have been reading and thinking deeply about this, and have come to believe that the next generation of Academies’ alumnae and alumni will enter adulthood in an America that is being rapidly reshaped by ubiquitous information, continuous innovation, accelerating complexity, and changing demography.

They will leave the Academies as true digital natives raised in a culture in which information is the key strategic resource for growth and development. As our graduates mature, they will need to become increasingly adept at managing an inexorable flow of information into their lives while making sense of its impact and veracity. They may also need to navigate a future in which already complicated systems will be increasingly interconnected, and grapple with the effects of technology that has outpaced their ability to understand it. Disruption may become a central feature of their adult lives as artificial intelligence and autonomous systems become commonplace, and digital tools continue to extract efficiencies from old processes and create wholly new opportunities. It is likely that many of our graduates will become “knowledge workers,” join the “creative class,” or find themselves in a “freelance economy.”

Over the next thirty years, they will also need to understand and manage the significant changes that may occur as the national median age moves above forty and the population shifts to become majority non-white. Within this context, the Class of 2019 will most likely be affected by a period of significant change to the social systems that currently shape our understanding of American culture.

Those that meet these future challenges are poised to take advantage of ever-increasing abundance and continuous improvements to their quality of life. To do so, I believe they will need to master a set of skills, behaviors, and habits of mind that may prove essential to success and happiness in the mid twenty-first century.

  • Character. While character has always been important, it becomes paramount when technology can significantly amplify the effects of bad decisions. Personal traits such as integrity, compassion, and empathy may also provide our graduates a much-needed moral compass during times of significant cultural change. At the Academies, character education is done within our formal curriculum and co-curricular programs, as well as through community expectations and the modeling provided by our teachers and coaches.
  • Connections. Grounded connections to both self and others may be increasingly important in the future. If it holds that continuous disruption becomes normal, self-management skills such as personal initiative, organization, resilience, and self-awareness may be even more integral to one’s life, as will the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills necessary to effectively adapt to new challenges. Finally, an under-standing of one’s connection to culture, developed through the humanities, may serve as an essential reference in dislocating times. 
  • Critical Thinking. In a world of increasing complexity awash in information, the ability to discern the signal from the noise also becomes an extremely important skill. Students develop these critical thinking skills through curricula and pedagogy that requires them to construct and defend logical arguments, engage in inquiry through the Scientific Method, analyze data to solve problems, and design and build projects that solve real-world problems. 
  • Creativity. While creativity may begin with a study of the arts, a more expansive definition is the ability to create something new and valuable from existing resources. This becomes a particularly useful skill in a world that allows for creative expression in increasingly sophisticated ways. Creative thinking is a discipline that can be taught through classroom experiences that encourage intellectual play and problem solving, and a broad, liberal arts knowledge base provides a wellspring from which students can synthesize new ideas. 
  • Curiosity. In a world where the lifecycle of careers, economic sectors, and knowledge bases may be significantly shortened, the ability to learn continuously will most likely be a significant differentiator for our graduates. Lifelong learning is most natural to students who have had their curiosity nurtured throughout their formative years, often by teachers who have encouraged them to “go deep” on particular areas of interest that capture their attention and imagination. 
  • Collaboration. Our graduates may also benefit from the ability to quickly form effective relationships in an increasingly networked world and to adapt to a variety of team configurations. As these teams become more diverse, cross-cultural competencies that allow them to work effectively across individual differences may also become increasingly important. This type of teamwork is a fundamental feature of the Academies’ experience that is taught and modeled in our classrooms, on the courts and fields, and on our stages.
  • Communication. The ability to communicate concisely and compellingly becomes even more important in a society that may simultaneously become more heterogeneous, complex, and distracted. The ability to speak and write well have always been hallmarks of an Academies education, honed through an emphasis on performance and public speaking. Visual and digital communications have been added to this mix as they have emerged as important modern mediums. 
  • Cosmopolitanism. It is very possible that our graduates may find future strategic advantage in the classical idea that all human beings, regardless of their attributes or affiliations, can and should become citizens of a single, inclusive community. At the Academies, we hope to create this relationship through a shared understanding that our diversity is a source of strength and a driver of academic excellence for all students. 
  • Courage. The complexity of the coming years may well test our graduates’ courage as they seek to navigate cultural turbulence and seek out new oppor-tunities. Acting courageously comes from confidence in one’s abilities and convictions, both of which are tested at the Academies through appropriate risk-tak-ing, “failing forward,” and constant encouragement. 

While I fully understand that history often makes fools of those who try to predict the future, I am also heartened by the fact that many of these competencies are similar to those that have sustained the success of Academies graduates for the last two centuries. It is my hope that offering this vision of optimal student outcomes will, in turn, bring other questions about shared practice, philosophy, processes, and procedures into much sharper focus as we begin a strategic planning process this spring. 

With this in mind, I wonder how this list fits your experience and understanding of the world? Does it resonate with you? What competencies might be missing? (No, they don’t have start with a “C”!) I would sincerely love to hear your thoughts, and welcome your feedback at lauricellac@albanyacademies.org

Sincerely,

Christopher J. Lauricella, Ed. M. 
Head of School
 
It is my hope that offering a shared vision of the optimal outcomes for our  graduates will  bring other strategic  questions about  shared practice,  philosophy, process, and procedures into much sharper focus.
    • Introducing Head of School Chris Lauricella


List of 1 items.

  • Transition Committee

    Chris Bender '78, P'15, '20, Co-Chair of Transition Committee
    Eileen Considine P’08, Trustee, Co-Chair of Transition Committee
    Jennifer Amstutz P’19, ’21, Trustee
    Dave Ashton P’17, ’21, ’21
    Nancy Carey Cassidy P’13, ’15, Trustee
    Tom Cassidy P’13, ’15
    Adam Collett P’32
    Karin Epstein P’18, ’21
    Anna Flik P’18, ’20, ’23, ’26
    James Hart P’09, ’10, ’13
    John Hayes ’87, P’16, ’18, Trustee
    Donna Keegan P’06, ’10
    Robert LuPone P’24
    Sandra Miorin P’10, ’12
    Wendy Muhlfelder ’67, P’94, ’98, ’99, ’00
    Timothy Owens ’83, P’15, ’19
    William B. Picotte ’67, P’01, ‘04
    Jim Poole ’68, P’02, ’14
    Shelly Reid P’12, ’23
    Susan Sneeringer '72, P’01, ’04, ‘08
    Kaari Stannard P’20, ’23, Trustee
    Ann Wendth
    Vince Zabinski P’99, ’03, ’04, ’04

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