Skip to Content

Community Talk: Brave New World

Back to News Listing


Jeremy Haefner

Speech  •

Thank you for joining us on our 2020 inaugural C+V event to explore ideas on belonging.  

We will soon hear several answers to the question: “Faced with reestablishing a civilization for humankind on another planet, how would you build and foster community?” 

I am pleased that Ann and the organizers chose a space theme in honor of the new Star Trek series that will feature Jean Luc Picard’s return in the premier on Wednesday January 23rd on your local CBS station. 

Seriously, the question is hypothetical – but the spirit behind it is applicable right now in this unique moment in history, not just here at DU, but nationally, globally 

In many ways, building and participating in community today can feel like we are starting fresh due to many forces: 

  • Rapidly changing technology 

  • Globalization  

  • Increasing political division  

  • Cultural and demographic shifts  

At DU, and everywhere, people are wondering what community means, what it looks like, how we can benefit from it and foster its success 

After all, when we are connected, we are happier and healthier across the many dimensions of our lives. This is especially true for our students. 

Just this month, Inside Higher Ed published a story about the importance of belonging to students’ success. The research shows that there is much room there is for improvement for minority and first-generation students to feel that powerful sense of belonging and community on four-year college campuses.  

That’s why the Community + Values Initiative – the host of this event – is so essential.  

Here on campus, we talk about OneDU and its central role in our DU IMPACT 2025, but without community and without a clear sense of our shared values, we can never achieve our highest and boldest OneDU potential.  

Through C+V, together, we are being courageous; we are asking big, complicated questions  

  • What better place than a University to do this work? 

  • How are we, and how should we, interact with one another? 

  • What changes do we want to see in our communities? 

  • What do we need to do different now and in 10 years? 

  • What do we value? And how does our community, our work, and our studies reflect those values? 

For me, however, all of this is about the objective of strengthening our collective and individual sense of belonging. I think we do a terrific job at creating a welcoming institution – our orientation of new students is a superb example. Student and parents remark consistently how we outshine our competition.  

But I’ve also detected, from our students and our faculty/staff, we have some room for improvement to create a sense of belonging. A sense of tribe and identity where we feel we belong. This is likely to happen ‘locally’ but we must strive to make it an institutional objective. 

Creating a sense of belonging is not easy – it is incredibly hard. And it takes our effort constantly. One objective that I see is that we must develop our muscle to have difficult conversations. Hard, hard, hard. But this is why I’m excited by our work with the 4D Student Experience which will build programming to have difficult conversations.  

And I believe to develop this capacity for difficult conversations, we must make sure we are a campus that empathizes and listens to divergent perspectives. It is the only way we are going to tackle learning to have difficult conversations and ultimately build that sense of belonging. 

Belonging: the final frontier. These are events of Community + Values. It’s continuing mission, to explore empathy and master difficult conversations. To seek out divergent thought and new perspectives. To boldly go where no University has gone before.  

Today’s speakers will present their ideas for how to build community from the ground floor up.  

How can we incorporate their big ideas into our lives and work here at DU?