The traditional start of the academic year each fall is the Convocation ceremony. It feels good to hang on to traditions right about now! The messages that were surrounding much of the preparations and the start of this year hung heavy in the air, and so I decided to share a message that transcended the low visibility. We all needed to take an expansive view of the year ahead of us, a look at the opportunities we had, instead of ones we didn’t. I talked about joy.
The promise of a new school year is always pregnant with excitement, purpose and potential. Our community has banded together in a way that is nothing short of remarkable to keep true to our mission of opening minds and opportunities for those eager to learn. We are doing all of this under trying circumstances and against hurdles we can’t see until they’re in the road before us.
As I shared with the community during the opening of the year: “Remember every challenge brings opportunities, and this one is no different. We now have new opportunities in the way we work; the way we meet; and the way we learn. We have thrown off constraints we have had in these areas, and we are free — free to innovate, free to create, free to lead through unchartered territory.”
Students and faculty have partnered in creativity and resilience to produce an experience unlike years before. They are bonded in the journey to excel when an unseen virus is lurking with its attempt to disrupt. We widen the circle and acknowledge the staff and the families who play key roles in the success of our students.
I am filled with joy and gratitude as we make our way through this Fall semester and prepare for the next. Joy at seeing what has been possible in the learning environment and gratitude for those in our community who are making it all possible. You will see much of the good work and the brightness of the human spirit in the pages of this issue of Grand Valley Magazine.
I will end this message as I ended my Convocation speech with a quotation from Roy T. Bennett’s “Light of the Heart.”
Don’t just learn, experience.
Don’t just read, absorb.
Don’t just change, transform.
Don’t just criticize, encourage.
Thank you for your encouragement and for the role you play in the well-being of our community.