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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lee-ding Off

Dr. Felicia Lee, VP for Student Affairs delivered a rousing welcome speech to new students on Saturday, August 22 in Laurie Auditorium. The talk, using references to Harry Potter, Twilight, and Mountains Beyond Mountains challenged students to choose love over lust in how they approached their relationships with one another and the University over the next four years.

This was the first time all of the students were gathered together sans family members. Check out the slide shows at right showing pictures of students and family members at the closing breakfast on Saturday morning.

A second slide show gives a sense of the flavor of the Team Trinity move-in crew. Below, the group is iin full attack mode, descending on a vehicle, piranha-style: Picking it clean to welcome a new student by carrying items up to the room in one energized swoop.

Sophomore Hijinx

Sophomore College residents play human foosball, above, upon their return to campus in August. The inflatable game was part of a welcome back barbecue, below left, and block party on the Prassel lawn. Students received SoCol t-shirts and nearly 300 took time to meet up with friends as part of their enthusiastic return to campus.

Below, Sophomore College Residential Life Coordinator Cally Chenault, speaks to the second-year class in front of Prassel Hall on Monday, as part of the Sophomore conference. She was joined by Class Marshal Angela Breidenstein and Alumni Sponsor Dave Mansen as well as Career Services Director Brian Hirsch. The brief talks to about 300 students were focused on educational and career preparation, making connections, and getting the most out of year two on campus.

Sophomore College was designed to instill community spirit into the second year for our students. Residents are housed together in North, Prassel, and Thomas Halls. This is the second full year of the program.

Holy Trinity

I don't know that it is sacrilegious to observe that in the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit gets the least ink. The deity is a bit like Ringo of the Beatles, or Kevin of the Jonas Brothers.

On Saturday night, however, I had the experience of seeing the Holy Spirit descend upon University Chaplain Reverend Stephen Nickle. It was during the closing remarks of the "Surviving and Thriving" panel for new students. This is our sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll talk that accompanies hilarious and moving skits by the student residential life staff. As we were invited to speak, I could sense a change happening with Rev. Nickle. While each of us on the panel made our remarks he clearly was in a different place. He was seated to my right, and he sat back, deferring to the panel as an unmistakeable focus came over him and his eyes welled up. This is when the Spirit moved him.

I have often been amazed at how in impromptu settings the Rev. can summon the Lord with an articulation most couldn't invoke at the computer screen, under little pressure. This time I saw it happen, and it was inspiring. As he leaned into the microphone and began to preach the final message of the night, the audience sensed it too, I think. What he said mattered less than how he said it, as he lifted the new students. I think they understood, as did I, that it was more than just words. For that moment, he led us to believe.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To Have and Have Not

Note: This message to new students from the Dean was published in the August 21, 2009 Trinitonian.

It’s all about you today. And then, it isn’t.

Even this week, while the focus of New Student Orientation and Welcome Week programs will be about YOUR success, there will be several opportunities to focus on others (such as “service” excursions). Get used to it. At the very basic level, that focus will start with being a good roommate. Beyond that, there are expectations that you will care about others in your residence hall and embrace the opportunity to learn about others who are different than you. This will extend beyond knowing about others, but acting in ways that respect others as well.

What’s more, you will be urged to make a difference in the community and the world. There is a student group here – TUVAC – devoted simply to this. There is a staff member – Edwin Blanton – whose job is simply this. There are programs in the residence halls on homelessness, hunger, and tutoring/mentoring. Before you even arrived here you were asked to read about Dr. Paul Farmer, a physician to the poor and you will hear a talk from his colleague, Dr. David Walton, this Thursday.

This is not by accident. Colleges and universities are not value free. The good ones understand that the world is shrinking. They understand that students need and expect to be prepared to work and live in a global environment. And most importantly, these institutions strive to produce students they are proud of. This includes students who act with ethics and integrity and who focus less on their narrow self-interest and more on others with greater need. That’s what you got when you got us.

By virtue of access and support to this educational experience, all Trinity students have a great deal of privilege. This may be through hard work or an inheritance of resources from others. It may simply be the result of the good fortune to have not been born into poverty. Indeed, privilege is at its core about receiving status through plain old luck.

We have an example right here on campus today. Some students were assigned to the newly renovated Miller Hall, while across the way, Calvert residents can only wonder “what might have been.” While life is not fair sometimes, at least Calvert residents can possibly see better days in their future assignments. Not so true for those born into poverty. Fairness indeed.

In this campus community we value caring about others, and making a difference to those with less, or in need. So many of our students have changed lives by investing in others. Often times they have changed their own in the process. Perhaps you will be like them one day. By learning that it isn’t all about you, in the end, it very well could be.

Instructions Required

It (pictured above), is a refrigerator magnet. That I get. It is actually a pretty informative magnet and has been distributed to all our dorm rooms by Career Services. What I don't get, though, is the pop-out section. It lists office contact information, but there is some of that on the border too. So there must be a plan behind the pop-out piece. I thought I would check with my colleague Twyla Hough, Assistant Director of Career Services to see what I was missing. "Uh, maybe its so you can use it as a picture frame?" she said. Hmmm. I expected something more along the lines of "Picture yourself in a swanky career!" Oh well.

What the staff there lacks in magnet planning, however, they more than make up for in career planning. Just this week, Director Brian Hirsch introduced the "4 Year Career Curriculum" to some of the staff in Student Affairs. The curriculum (see links in this sentence) is meant to serve as a guide for students over the first, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

The plan is not meant to be a checklist that requires completion in order to get a job. What it does offer is an opportunity for Career Services staff to look at the developmental stages of career planning with students and for students to simply have a guide in being purposeful about their preparation. For me, the guides are easiest read top to bottom. For example, look at "Networking & Communication" through the four years to get an idea of what can be done in that area. The tasks, in the left column, feature great ideas about specific things to be considered or completed.

The guides are not linear. That is, a junior may be doing things that could have been done the previous two years. That's okay: It is a guide. The intended outcome is that students will arrive at their senior year having done as much as possible to prepare them to craft resumes and handle interview questions about what they've been up to for the last four years.

Career Services has a tremendous Web page that will be even better when rolled out as a new version later this fall. Dr. Hirsch, along with Ms. Hough, Career Advisor Maranda Larsen, and Career Services Assistant Sam Hernandez-Jones have also put together a calendar of events for the year -- many of them to be held in the residence hall areas and geared toward the students housed, by classification, in those buildings.

Hopefully students will utilize these resources to be successful in career planning. The instructions are clear and would be worth following. Picture yourself there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Cool Stuff

As if a brand new Miller Hall (first year area) wasn't enough, the residence halls also received some new gear for the comfort of residents. Pictured above, the North-South lounge and foyer (Upper-class area and Sophomore College) have new looks thanks to recommendations from a group of students and staff members. They met last year to re-envision this space and their plans came to fruition this summer. The Prassel patio (Sophomore College), below, was also really fully furnished for the first time at the suggestion of a Student Affairs colleague. This space will hopefully provide a mellow and shaded locale for students to relax, visit, and study. Look for a similar upgrade in McLean next year. Staff members Cally Chenault, Wanda Olson, and Cindy Lara were in charge of ordering and installation planning on these projects.