How we stay true to our values while navigating a VUCA world

The U.S. Army War College applied the term VUCA to describe the state of the post-Cold War world. The geo-political balance of power in the Cold War destabilized international affairs. War planners looked at the world with this new reality as their lens and saw something that was Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. In the post-Cold War world, we have seen the rise of global terrorism, a rebirth of autocrats around the globe, the decline of bipartisanship in American politics, and the emergence of a global pandemic that has upended the world economy. Against this backdrop, the slaying of unarmed African Americans and the disparities of how COVID-19 has affected communities of color have raised more awareness about systemic racism in this nation.

As the leader of Colorado Academy, I see our community experiencing our own VUCA world. We are neither immune from COVID-19 nor the legacy of white supremacy in American history. As Americans, we inherited a society that has fallen short of the ideals of the American Revolution, which holds that all are created equal and all are entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When I find myself in uncertain conditions, especially when I explore the wilderness, I rely on my compass. In this time of uncertainty and conflict, we must rely on CA’s compass—our institutional values that guide us forward and help us find our true north.

This fall, CA will reopen to serve young people and fulfill a critical need for human-to-human connection. As we plan for the return to campus, we are operating in a “fog of war” that is filled with volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous information. Despite that, we are planning carefully to ensure that Colorado Academy serves this generation of students in the best and safest ways. We are looking deeply at our own work and our own practices. Like many schools, we have pledged our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial justice. Yet, when we continue to see such disparities in American life, and violence against people of color, this is a call for all of us to redouble our efforts.

How we can do a better job

I have been moved by the voices of alumni, faculty, parents, and students who demand that we do a better job in the area of inclusivity. We recently had a virtual meeting in which we shared our current work and goals. We listened to the voices of our alumni. It’s important that we acknowledge that the experiences of our alumni from diverse backgrounds have not always been as positive as those of white alumni. Some have reported racist incidents during their time as a student. These are heartbreaking stories. We haven’t always lived up to our ideals, and that needs to change. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and kind community. I know we can be that community for all, but it requires us to lean into difficult conversations about race in America and race at CA. Look for future communications for opportunities to get involved.

We also want to make sure you have direct contact with me or our Board Chair. If any member of our community has information about an incident of misconduct that may have transpired in prior years, please report it to the Head of School or to the Chair of the Board of Trustees. Colorado Academy will investigate all reports, and if appropriate, use a third party, independent investigator to follow up.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the incredible commitment from our faculty and current families who saw our students through a tumultuous end of the school year. I also want to extent a huge thank you to those of you who supported CA this year, through volunteer efforts and also financially through gifts to The CA Fund, the Leslie Clovis Webster Faculty/Staff Enrichment Fund, the Emergency Tuition Assistance Fund, and the See it Through capital campaign. I am also grateful for the dedication of the Alumni Board and the work they do to support the school, and I extend special thanks to outgoing Alumni Board President Kelly Young Campbell ’98 for her leadership over the last two years.

Finally, I am delighted to officially welcome the Class of 2020 to the CA alumni family. I missed seeing many of our alumni on campus for Giant Relay Day and Reunions, and I look forward to the day that we can all be together again to celebrate our CA community.