Great Expectations

As we prepare to celebrate the success of 210 Methodist University students earning a degree at our Winter Commencement this weekend, I am reminded of the words of encouragement we offer students when they began their Methodist experience. We challenge them to maximize their experience by being engaged citizens on and off campus, knowing that by doing so they are more likely to graduate, to be successful in their career or graduate school pursuits, and to live lives of meaning and purpose.

Perhaps my most important responsibility as president is to challenge students to exceed their initial expectations as they enter the University. Often these expectations focus on a single purpose or goal, like “being a nurse,” “playing football,” or “being a PGA golf professional.” Should these students experience any disappointment in reaching their single goal, they are often so discouraged that they consider discontinuing their university education. Having witnessed this phenomenon for several generations, Methodist has developed initiatives to encourage students to be involved in multiple ways on the campus, to “put in roots” that anchor them and help them weather any storm they might experience during their educational career. This is why programs like the First Year Experience, strong residence hall experiences, robust student activities, and the Methodist University Journey have been developed; all are designed to engage each student and raise his or her expectations for outcomes of an MU education.

During the opening dinner of their freshman year, I encourage students to find their “one thing,” meaning to develop a passion for a program of study or career goal that will give them direction and drive to succeed. Equally important, however, is for each MU student to meet the greatest expectation of all, which is to earn a Methodist University degree. The gratification that comes from this achievement is unequalled. As I shake the hand of each graduating student on Saturday, I see the sense of pride in their eyes and in their families and friends who are present for this momentous occasion. From knowing your ”one thing” to meeting the “greatest expectation” is quite a journey, but well worth the investment. Just this week, I was in Atlanta for an alumni event, and as I listened to the stories of graduates from the 1970′s to the 2010′s, I was reminded of the impact of this feat and the life-long relationship that is created among these graduates and with their alma mater.

To this weekend’s graduates, well done! We are so proud of you and your accomplishments. Congratulations on having “great expectations” of yourselves, and on reaching them. We look forward to hearing about your future success in the next leg of your journey.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are You Going to Sing the Alma Mater?

A University is and should be defined by its people. On many occasions, I have emphasized how “signature people” are the ones who insist upon excellence and will settle for nothing less, especially at a place they love.

 

Dr. Louis Spilman was one such person. He let you know spilmanwhere he stood with his faith, his family, and his university. There was no middle ground. He gave all he had to the people and things he believed in, and expected the same from others. During the time that I knew him, if he ever felt that Methodist was not living up to his high standards, he wouldn’t hesitate to let me know. I respected and loved him for it. So did so many others, as this first graduate of Methodist College served for more than 40 years as a trustee and received the University’s highest honors – an honorary degree and the University Medallion.

 

At a recent Board of Trustees dinner, the Methodist University Chorale was performing, and before they concluded their program, Louis yelled out, “Are you going to sing the Alma Mater?” Fortunately, the Chorale already had planned on this being their closing number, so they happily responded to his request. After all, how could you have a Methodist University event and not sing the Alma Mater?

 

This past week, Louis passed away. The tributes in the media and at the memorial service reminded everyone what he meant to this community and to the University. So many have been inspired by his spirituality, his generosity, his sage advice, and his humanity. We will miss him greatly.

 

My last memory of Louis was from Friday, Nov. 1, when he was on campus for the annual Scholarship Luncheon. He always enjoyed visiting with the students, especially the recipients of the Spilman Scholarship. Before lunch, the MU Chamber Singers were singing the Alma Mater and I looked over toward him and saw the look of pride on his face as he sang along to honor the University he loved.

 

Louis, the University community loved you as much as you loved them. Thank you for making us a better place as we heeded your advice and put our faith and people first. Signature people are what build and sustain signature facilities and programs. Methodist University gets it right, because Louis Spilman wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

From now on, whenever I sing the Alma Mater, I will think of you. The closing line of the song is so appropriate, “God go with thee for eternity.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best Homecoming Weekend Ever

blog photo - homecomingThere were so many things about Methodist’s recent Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend that made it special. Clearly, the record numbers in attendance for our football and soccer victories contributed to the successful weekend. Having so many alumni and parents on campus was also very exciting. But what truly made it an amazing experience were the stories.

When a graduate tells you she hasn’t been on campus in 40 years, you can imagine she has a story to share. When a mom and dad see their freshman son for the first time since dropping him off in August, he certainly has a story to tell. When eight distinguished individuals receive alumni awards, you can believe they have stories to convey. And when outstanding athletes are honored at the annual Hall of Fame Banquet, you can imagine they have incredible athletic feats to relive.

But the stories that mean the most to me are not those recited in front of an audience or during a special ceremony, even though they are heartwarming and memorable. What I treasure are the “small things” that every alumni and every parent tells you about a faculty or staff member – in the days gone by or just yesterday – that lets me know that Methodist gets it right. It reminds me that the reason former and current students came to Methodist in the first place was because of the people, and yet again during Homecoming Weekend those stories were retold and new stories were shared.

“Good people doing good things” is a phrase I use quite often at Methodist. Some of these people are recognized with awards, and it is great to see them recognized for outstanding accomplishments over their lifetimes. But there are many, many others who quietly make a difference on the MU campus without expecting or desiring any acclaim. They do it because it is the natural thing to do.

The greatest compliments I receive are when visitors go out of their way to tell me how impressed they are with the people at Methodist. Parents tell me that the good feelings they had during the admissions visit have continued during the matriculation process. Alumni tell me how impressed they are with the hospitality they are shown when they return to campus, making them feel truly welcomed.

We have a wonderful campus community here at Methodist. As president, I am certainly proud of our record enrollment and record turnouts. I am very excited about the expansion of our facilities and what it will mean for our future. But I am most proud of our people, and how they “deliver the gold” every day.

I’m the luckiest president of any university in the country.  It’s also one of the main reasons, along with the amazing students here, that I have the best job in America.

P.S.  Please feel free to go to our flickr page to check out the many photos from Homecoming and Parents’ Day and see why it was the “best weekend ever.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m Not Supposed to Be Here

Every student has a story. All you have to do is ask.

One of my favorite things to do each day is to eat in the dining hall with the students. Usually (and much to their initial chagrin) I will just approach a group of unsuspecting students who are eating and engaged in conversation, and simply say, “May I join you?”  I’m sure they are thinking, “What do you say to the president of our university other than, ‘Of course!’”

As one might expect, conversations usually begin with information about home towns and majors and then progress to discussions about how the semester is going. And they could easily end at that point as the students politely excuse themselves to head off to class. But if the conversation continues a little longer, I find that the students are more than willing to tell you “their story,” and open up to tell you why they are at Methodist. I find these to be some of the most fascinating conversations of my day.

One such meeting occurred recently over lunch. I noticed a student eating by himself so I invited myself to join him. After exchanging pleasantries, and understanding that I was not going to leave lunch without more of a conversation, this student stated, “I’m not supposed to be here.” I asked him to tell me more.

It seems that at an early age this student had some medical difficulties that led his physician to indicate to his family that he would never be able to do certain things. These included going to college or playing sports. What this doctor didn’t take into consideration was the power of a loving family and the personal drive of this student who was committed to succeeding. He went on to tell me that the day he received his acceptance letter to Methodist, he went to see the family doctor and showed him his letter. Yes, he was going to college, and yes, he was going to play football.

There are many stories like this one that I am privileged to hear as president, just by asking. I often say that I have the best job in America – because of having the best students in America. Every student has a story, and I find that they come to our University because of the opportunity to write the next chapter in their story. What Methodist does so well is provide opportunities for students to succeed. Many of them have hurdles to overcome – and one by one they learn that MU is committed to their success and to helping them create their own personal journey.

More than 40 years ago, as a first-generation college student with many hurdles to overcome, I, too, felt that “I’m not supposed to be here.” What made the difference in my journey were wonderful faculty mentors, capable staff, and engaging classmates who brought out the best in me. It’s amazing how little has changed in over four decades. The things that mattered to me still matter to today’s students.

So here’s my answer to these students who might say, “I’m not supposed to be here.” I say, “Welcome. You are supposed to be here. We have been waiting for you and are prepared to provide you with an amazing journey.”

Every student has a story. I am so fortunate to be president at a place that is so student-centered and provides opportunities for students to tell their stories and write the next chapter based on their MU experience.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Game Day

There is something special about a Saturday in September on a university campus. Such was the case this past weekend when MU hosted its home opener in football, along with soccer matches for our women’s and men’s teams. The campus community, alumni, parents, and other visitors saw our university at its best. Our new students were introduced to “Game Day” and all the excitement. School spirit was abundant, as everyone watched the teams, marching band, cheer squad, and dancers.

DSC_0077Saturday was also “Gwen and Tim Holtsclaw Day,” recognizing their service to the university and community. One of my favorite things to do is to thank people, so what a wonderful occasion to celebrate the ways the Holtsclaws have contributed to Methodist and made it a better place.

This has been a wonderful opening of the year for Methodist University. We have witnessed a record enrollment and our highest number of residential students, who will enjoy the many activities that are available to all members of the campus community. To see these same students enjoy their university experience as they begin their educational journey and create lifelong friendships with classmates, teammates, and roommates is something to behold. They will remember their experiences during the first weeks of college and be loyal Monarchs forever.

At the end of the football game (after Methodist defeated Guilford, 41-34), new MU Football Head Coach C.J. Goss started a new tradition. He asked the football team, band, cheer squad and dancers to gather in the end zone. After the playing and singing of the alma mater, he asked me to address the group. I congratulated them on their victory and their perseverance, but most important, I thanked them for being such wonderful representatives of our university as they conducted themselves with class throughout the contest. The fans, including their families and fellow students, were very proud of them. And what a thrill to see a new tradition started and such a wonderful, positive experience shared.

It made a Game Day to remember and relationships to enjoy for a lifetime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s People That Matter

During my time as Methodist’s president, I have often remarked that a “culture of excellence” is best ensured by the acts of signature people. This has never been more true as we begin the fall semester.

During New Student Orientation and through subsequent email messages and letters, I have received so many compliments from new students, families, and other visitors about our University. While they have been very impressed with the physical improvements we continue to make to the campus, what impresses them the most are the people at Methodist. Admissions and financial aid staff, student tour guides, faculty members, business office staff, student affairs staff, and coaches have all made a difference.

Compliments have been specific and in detail, and include one of our housekeeping staff members introducing herself to the family and offering to be of assistance. This family was simply “blown away” by the genuine hospitality and sense of caring that was expressed at every turn. As one mother of a new student told me, there are many good colleges between our home in New York and here in North Carolina, but it was the people who brought us here and why our son decided on Methodist.

officerJ

During last week’s Opening Convocation, I had the pleasure of awarding the University Medallion to Lorenzo Josephs who is the “official greeter” at the entrance to campus. His warm welcome and positive attitude epitomizes MU hospitality, and was worth singling out through this award that recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to our community. Mr. Josephs received a standing ovation from a packed Linda and Ralph Huff Concert Hall audience, as we all called out his favorite phrase, “I hope you have a nice day.”

It is not by accident that Methodist University will witness a record enrollment this year. It will be directly because of the people here who make a difference. People matter to prospective students and their families. People matter to visitors. People matter to all of us who want to transform the lives of students who enter our gates and are welcomed by Mr. Josephs. That’s the Methodist way, and that’s why I have the best job in America – because we at Methodist have the best people in America.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Monarch Heart

Thai2Earlier this summer, Debbie and I joined University Chaplain and Vice President Mike Safley on an extraordinary trip to Thailand. Two years in the making, we were not disappointed in any aspect of the journey.

Many members of the Methodist family are unaware of our deep roots in Thailand. Since the 1970’s we have attracted students from this beautiful country – a tradition that continues today as one of our current students, Noon Kantapasara is benefiting from a Methodist education. Noon was home for the summer, and we had the pleasure of meeting her father and sharing stories about Methodist.

The Thai people are known for their hospitality, and our hosts for the visit, two Methodist alumni, Kreetha Matitanaviroon ’74, and Kittinant Cholwibul ’74, far exceeded our expectations. We had an opportunity to meet other alumni and friends, including Suthathip “Benz” Suanmali ’02, who was our first United World College graduate and presently serves as Assistant Professor at Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT) in Bangkok. Benz hosted a meeting for us with the leadership of the Institute, and we shared information about our two universities.

A highlight of the trip was a dinner held with our alumni and friends and hosted at Kittinant’s (Kit’s) restaurant. It was so wonderful to have traveled half way around the world and feel so much at home.

During one of our many excursions hosted by Kreetha, Mike Safley asked his former roommate why he had such strong feelings for Methodist University, which were so clearly evident, as he shared story after story of his undergraduate days on campus. Kreetha’s response was, “Heart of a Monarch.” He went on to talk about his transformational experience here, as everyone at Methodist was so welcoming, even though his language, food, and culture were so different. This had such a profound impact on him that he coined a phrase that has stayed with him to this day, as he feels it is his duty to “give back” and continue the tradition of the Heart of the Monarch.

This morning I greeted the new group of approximately 50 international students joining our community, and as they introduced themselves and mentioned their country of origin, I couldn’t help but think of Kreetha and how some 40 years ago he was sitting in a similar place, experiencing Methodist (and the U.S.) for the first time. We hope they will all have transformational experiences and leave with “A Monarch Heart.” Hopefully, they too will make a difference in this world based on the education, perspective, and life-long relationships they will develop here at Methodist.

 100 Partnerships

 As a result of our visit to SIIT an agreement is being developed between SIIT (as a part of Thammasat University) and Methodist University that will include faculty and student exchanges. We look forward to moving forward with this program once the memorandum of understanding (MOU) is finalized, creating opportunities as early as the 2014-15 year for our two institutions to benefit from this partnership. And through our outreach to our alumni and friends in Thailand, we will expand our recruitment efforts to attract future Thai students to Methodist so they can benefit from an MU education. We look forward to these partnerships and all they will do to further our university-wide commitment to global education.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s Something Going On Behind That Wall

Photograph08I have been delighted by the many comments the University has received from community people, alumni, parents, students, employees, and visitors about the new brick wall and banners that are visible along Ramsey Street. These streetscape improvements have “dressed up the campus” and resulted in many more people noticing the University than ever before.

While the brick wall, banners, and landscaping represent modest improvements at best, they suggest that “something new is going on behind that wall,” and that has people talking. The substance of these improvements is far from modest and represents the hard work of the campus and the support of the Board of Trustees and many other friends of the University. One only has to drive or walk around the campus to notice real progress on the Campus Master Plan. The renovations suggest MU is on the move and expanding its offerings through the availability of these renovated facilities.

The best compliments we’ve received have been the frequent comments from visitors about the friendliness of the campus and how excited everyone seems to be about what is happening. As I have often said, a Culture of Excellence depends on signature people even more than signature programs and facilities. As we move forward with our focus on all three elements, we are in the strongest position in the history of the University.

If you haven’t visited Methodist lately, I invite you to drive on the campus – past the wall and banners, past the new lines of trees, and past the buildings under construction. Park your car and strike up a conversation with one of our employees or students. They will be happy to share with you all the exciting things happening “behind the wall.” And stay tuned, as all of us associated with Methodist University believe “the best is yet to be.”

100 Partnerships

Last Friday, we were fortunate to host Womack Army Medical Center’s Summer Commencement in Reeves Auditorium. Womack has been a key partner with Methodist in the health sciences. They often use our health science facilities and are the largest provider of clinical rotations for our PA students. The Commencement ceremony gave me an opportunity to thank the leaders at Womack for their assistance and to celebrate our mutually beneficial relationship.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

40 under Forty: Our Community’s Succession Plan

40 Under FortyThis past Friday night I had the honor of attending and speaking at The Fayetteville Observer’s annual “40 Under Forty” dinner held at the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. Among the 40 honorees were six individuals with Methodist University degrees, including Malia Kalua Allen ’04, Jasmine Coleman ’05, Jennifer Kirby Fincher ’02, Kamina Fitzgerald ’03, Doris Munoz ’06, and Kimberly Sublett ’11MBA. And this doesn’t include other winners who have roots at Methodist, including Ben Chambers, grandson of long-time trustee Charles Warren, and Meagan McCabe, who formerly worked in MU’s Career Services. As I state’d to the assembled group, it felt like MU had “swept the Oscars” with so many winners in one evening! I am so proud of our graduates who have assumed leadership positions in the greater Fayetteville community.

My message to the audience, and in particular to the 40 young professionals, was similar to the one I share with our students at the beginning of each year. I truly believe that I have the best job in America … for me, and I want our students to aspire to have the best job in America … for them. In looking at the credentials of the honorees, it was clear that they, too, believe they have the best job in America and live their professional and personal lives with such a positive attitude. Therefore, there were at least 41 individuals in the room who believed they had the best job in America, and I challenged the rest of the audience to encourage these young people to continue their quest for excellence.

My second message had to do with finding “The One Thing.” Again, in my opening remarks to new students I talk about finding their “One Thing,” meaning their passion that will inspire them to maximize their experiences during the MU Journey. I note that for each student the “One Thing” will be different, and the key is to try so many things as a part of their quest, because when they finally discover their “One Thing,” it will be transformational and set the stage for a successful MU career and ultimately a life full of meaning and purpose. I end my message to the students by saying that they are my “One Thing,” thereby communicating to them that there is nothing more important to the president of the University than their collegiate success.

The individual inductees of the 2013 Class of 40 Under Forty have unmistakably found their “One Thing.” Their accomplishments, enthusiasm, and passion for what they are doing in their professions and in the community clearly demonstrate that they are transforming this community just as they are transforming their own lives through service to others. Their “One Thing” is the greater Fayetteville community, and I called on everyone assembled for the evening to recognize and support their contributions. This class of 40, the two classes that preceded them, and those that follow represent the greater Fayetteville’s “succession plan.” We will need for their passion to continue and for their volunteer interests to evolve into leadership positions with the many institutions that will benefit from their experiences, perspectives, and drive. For it is people who define institutions, and not institutions that define people, and Fayetteville is in good hands as we look to the future.

My final challenge to the Class of 2013 was to think down the road 20 years hence, at the “60 Under 60” dinner, and try to see themselves in that audience and whether or not they had lived up to their potential and assumed those leadership positions – that their “One Thing” had been realized. I asked them to remember three things from my message: (1) people matter and they are what makes the difference – something this 40 Under Forty Class clearly understands; (2) you can’t do things alone – you need to form partnerships with fellow inductees and others to create a sustainable team approach to address challenges and opportunities; and (3) the best is yet to be.

Yes, I have the best job in America at the best University in America in the best community in America. And if you don’t believe it, I invite you to sit down with members of the graduating MU Class of 2013 or The Fayetteville Observer’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013. You’ll hear about their “One Thing” and their passion for the Journey.

And yes, the best is yet to be.

100 Partnerships

Methodist University is fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with The Fayetteville Observer as a community partner. President and Publisher Charles W. Broadwell is a leader in this community and demonstrates daily that his “One Thing” is the people of Fayetteville.  Furthermore, he and others from the Observer serve on a number of advisory boards at the University, sharing their passion and expertise that is so beneficial as we strive to provide the very best educational and practical experiences for our students.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

I had a dream the other night, and while I usually don’t remember them, one phrase stood out: “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.” In this instance “ordinary people” refers to “every day people” as opposed to those possessing certain advantages above others.

This caused me to reflect on the last few days—typical days, mind you, for this University president. I was reminded of so many examples on our campus of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Our students, faculty, staff, and community offer so many examples of promoting a “culture of excellence” that is so much a part of our “culture of excellence.”

Let me provide just a few examples . . .

. . . at our Center for Entrepreneurship Summit several individuals in the community were recognized for their success in business . . . ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

. . . at our Athletic Awards Ceremony, student athletes were recognized for their success on and off the field . . . Methodist University providing opportunities for ordinary students to do extraordinary things.

. . . at a luncheon within the University’s endowed professors, I engaged in a conversation with outstanding faculty or are committed to enabling ordinary students to do extraordinary things.

. . . at a luncheon held for the University’s Board of Visitors, I was impressed with the community representatives in the room, all assembled so that they as a group of ordinary citizens, could do extraordinary things for our students.

. . . at induction ceremonies for the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success and XIII Women’s Leadership Society, I witnessed ordinary students being recognized for extraordinary leadership abilities based on their University experiences.

On Saturday, May 11, we will celebrate Commencement. On that occasion, we will hear from two individuals who have done extraordinary things . . .

. . . Al Cleveland, a successful attorney and an ordinary man who has done extraordinary things for this University and the community.

. . . Lieutenant General Daniel Allyn, an American hero, an ordinary man who has done extraordinary things for his country.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. In this University environment the stage is set, through a culture of excellence, for our ordinary students to do extraordinary things. In our community, the stage is set for our friends to collectively accomplish extraordinary things to benefit our students. They serve as critical role models and mentors to help guide the way.

Methodist University is so grateful to those who have created pathways for our students to do some extraordinary things. In the end, that’s the only reason we are all here.

It’s what is expected of us.

It’s what is required of us.

It’s what makes an extraordinary University. 

100 Partnerships

At the recent Career Fair sponsored by the Methodist University Office of Career Services, a number of regional businesses and organizations took time out of their schedule to provide information and career guidance to our students. I would like to recognize just a few of these partners who are committed to our students and contribute to the environment that produces extraordinary graduates: PWC (Public Works Commission); Finish Line, IRS (Internal Revenue Service), BB&T, The Fayetteville Observer, and the State Employees’ Credit Union.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment