By Nick Dirks, Vice Chairman & Chancellor
What makes a school?
In our minds, a school is a place that empowers children to learn what they love while feeling safe enough to try new things and challenge themselves. As an academic administrator at Columbia and Berkeley, I’ve advocated for global partnerships and collaborations, working with colleagues at both universities to establish global centers, programs, and alliances. In my view, one of the most important arenas for innovation in American universities is in extending their global presences and fully accepting that they are now part of a global ecosystem of educational institutions, scholars, and students.
As I learned about the plan to build Whittle School & Studios from the ground up, however, I came to realize that the domain of education at the K-12 level is in some ways even more critical for taking on the contemporary challenges and opportunities of our global future. By building an expansive network of schools, we have the unique opportunity to craft the foundations of our Whittle education in a genuinely global manner. Everything we do reflects a global, cultural commitment and sensibility rooted in the recognition that we live in an increasingly global world, even though that world is still deeply rooted in specific places.
We want each student, from our smallest three-year-old to our tallest 12th grader, to stretch their imaginations inside the classroom, collaborate with communities outside the classroom, and explore the world through language immersion programs and study abroad opportunities. As a day school for early childhood through 12th grade with different boarding options starting in 8th grade, we offer a personalized experience for families that is flexible depending on their individual needs.
Our Whittle School & Studios team is excited to create not just one but an entire network of schools in 30 cities around the world within the next 10 years.
We will educate global citizens, but we will do so with the recognition that each city (and culture) in which we locate a school is the foundation of what we mean when we say global. This entails serious engagement with each place, demonstrated, for example, by our Centers of Excellence and the central role of City Core, as well as the importance of language immersion and study. If global institutions are to endure, they must be as rooted in specific places as they are in the more common conviction that our future depends on genuine global understanding and experience.
This is an exciting moment in our preparations for launching Whittle School & Studios. The opening of our first two schools, in Shenzhen and Washington, D.C., is just 14 months away. For me, it is an especially exciting moment, because I have just formally begun my role as chancellor and vice chair.
Today, at a time of rising skepticism about (and resistance against) some aspects of globalization, it is a privilege to work with Whittle School & Studios to establish a new kind of model for the potential meaning of globalization. The stakes are high; our ambitions are even higher. I look forward to working with all of you as we bring this extraordinary vision to life over the coming years.