“26.2”

Methodist University

I’ve run a marathon. The exhilarating feeling you have when you see that finish line in front of you—the sense of accomplishment that you have met a remarkable personal goal. The last thing that is on your mind is that someone would harm you. And the fact that you are so mentally focused, and physically and emotionally exhausted, means that you are also so vulnerable.

Two of my children are runners and have participated in many marathons. In fact, one has actually run the Boston Marathon and knows every turn, every crack in the pavement, every excruciating moment along those 26.2 miles that define the city.

My daughter lives and works in Boston. She called us yesterday to tell us she was okay. Still, I wish I were there to give her a big hug. I texted her today and told her I loved her.

My story is not unique. I am sure there are many who have loved ones affected by Monday’s tragedy in Boston. Many others have run marathons—Boston and otherwise—and share similar feelings. And yes, as far away as Fayetteville, North Carolina, and on the campus of Methodist University, we make adjustments, we cope, we pray for those who are suffering, and we appropriately change our priorities.

Late today, we received a message on behalf of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, indicating that he would have to postpone his visit to Methodist to be our guest for tomorrow’s inaugural Presidential Speaker Series. Dr. Gupta is where he needs to be, and where all Americans should be focused, in Boston, trying to help a nation make sense out of a senseless act.

The reason Dr. Sanjay Gupta was chosen as our first Presidential Series Speaker is the same reason he had to postpone his visit to campus tomorrow; it is because of his ability to tell the story in a way that helps us understand what is happening, as if he were right in our living room talking to us.

We were hoping to have Dr. Gupta in Methodist University’s “living room” tomorrow night. For now, we’ll share him with millions of Americans who need him more than we do. And we’ll pray for his safe passage until he joins us, along with the victims and their families and friends in Boston. We will give our thanks for those who help us understand, whether they are journalists who relate to their audiences or Methodist University faculty who relate to our students.

26.2 – it will from now on mean more than a race. It will remind us of a tragedy, but more importantly, it will remind us, as such races were designed to do, of the resilience of the human spirit. It will remind us of our ability to endure so much more than we ever imagined we could, to heal thanks to the strength and support of others, and to move forward to race another day.

My thoughts and prayers to all members of the Methodist University community,

Ben Hancock
President

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Leadership and the Journey of MU Students

Over the past two weeks, I have had the privilege of meeting with two of our outstanding student leadership groups on campus: the inaugural class of 41 Leadership Fellows, sponsored by the Lura Tally Center for Leadership Development, and Student Leaders at Methodist (SL@M), sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs.  Through my interaction with these young people and so many other student leaders, I am convinced that the future of Methodist University, and indeed our country, is bright.

For the Methodist University community, these students will progress into leadership positions on the campus as upperclassmen, and ultimately be engaged alumni, assuming leadership positions with advisory boards, regional alumni groups, the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and the Board of Trustees. For the communities who will be fortunate enough to be the home of our graduates, they will be the beneficiaries of dedicated and caring individuals who possess the skill set to be effective leaders, and the experience in collaborating with others to solve problems and bringing people of all backgrounds together.

Our country was conceived on the principle of citizens “giving back” and being engaged in their communities. It is what makes America strong. It’s what makes individual communities strong. It’s what makes individual universities strong. What a wonderful time to be in our country, in this community, and at Methodist University.

During an informal discussion Debbie and I hosted in our home for the Leadership Fellows, I asked the students to share why they applied to be Fellows. I was moved by their responses that included “I want to improve my leadership skills,” “I want to be a better servant leader,” “I want to enhance my skills in preparation for my profession,” and “I want to be an effective servant leader.”

Methodist University students make this a better community and they are committed to “building better communities” wherever they go. I have the best job in America because of these exceptional young people. Methodist University gets it right because these student leaders are getting it right. No other university in America offers the same opportunities to its students, in part because no other University has the resources and community support at its disposal to offer its students.

Once again, the best is yet to be. The best for Methodist and the best for our country and its many communities is yet to be—all because of MU students and the future they will help shape and lead.

100 Partnerships

One of the distinguishing features of the Lura Tally Center for Leadership Development, directed by Dr. Andrew Ziegler, is its Advisory Board. This group of outstanding leaders takes the time to share their perspectives for the betterment of our program, and serve as excellent mentors and role models for the next generation of leaders emerging from the Methodist University.  We are so grateful for individuals like Charles Broadwell, Loleta Foster, Harry Shaw, George Breece, Terri Union, Mary Kinney, Burt VanderClute, Judge Mary Ann Tally, Cynthia Wilson, and many others who serve on this Board. They exemplify the real benefit of having community partners to strengthen our programs, and at the same time, they serve the community by helping to develop future leaders.

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A ‘Military Friendly’ University … It’s More than a Tagline

Methodist UniversityOver the past 48 hours, Methodist University has received a great deal of publicity for its announcement to provide free classes to soldiers at our Ft. Bragg location in response to the elimination of Military Tuition Assistance (TA) offered to the Army and other branches of the Armed Forces. This action by Methodist was a gesture on our part to show our support for the troops and what they mean to this community and nation. Furthermore, active-duty soldiers, veterans, and their family members represent a significant number of MU students, so we wanted to demonstrate how committed we are to their continued education and progress toward a degree.

I want to commend the faculty and staff for their individual responses at this time of uncertainty for soldiers engaged in their educational pursuits. True to our “student-centered” approach, there have been many suggestions on how to address this situation. Faculty members have even offered to teach classes for free. In fact, we have not only offered free tuition for existing classes, but due to demand, we are expanding enrollment and adding additional sections for classes beginning next week.

The response from soldiers, community members, the media, and others has been overwhelming. When asked why we took this action, I think Yasmin Rivera, director of Methodist University at Ft. Bragg, put it best. “For many active-duty soldiers, it (the suspension of TA funding) put a halt to the educational goals they work so hard to achieve while defending our country. We want to show our service members that we appreciate their sacrifices, both on the field and off, and we are willing to do what we can during times of uncertainty. ‘Military friendly’ is not just a tagline—it’s a commitment we take seriously.”

Once again, Methodist gets it right. That’s why I have the best job in America, in the best community in America, made possible because of the best service members in America, who deserve an education.

100 Partnerships

It is very appropriate to feature our relationship with Ft. Bragg and its leadership in this column. There has never been a great university without a great community, and there is no more important element of our community than Ft. Bragg. MU benefits through collaborative educational programs, for sure, but there is so much more. It is the site for so many clinical rotations, internships, and other experiential offerings. The top leaders often visit the campus to lecture or serve in advisory capacities. Musical groups come to campus to perform, demonstrating just one more example of the tremendous resources they provide to all.

Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Irizarry stopped by my office last night, stating that he simply wanted to shake my hand for our gesture of free tuition for soldiers. He talked about the important role universities like Methodist have in educating our soldiers. Having such a patriot take the time to call on me was a humbling experience. It is I who should be thanking him and the rest of his colleagues.

Partnerships suggest reciprocal arrangements. Thus, it was without hesitation we immediately announced the free tuition program. That’s what partners do. America strong. Methodist University strong.

Ben Hancock
President

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A Happy Anniversary to the President Who Has the Best Job in America

Today marks my second anniversary as president of Methodist University. What a wonderful ride it has been. I pinch myself each morning and think about how blessed I am to have a wonderful family, good health, and the Best Job in America. Not everyone has the opportunity to enjoy their “dream job,” and I want to thank every member of the MU community for making it possible.

We all have much to be proud of as we reflect on what has happened at Methodist University over its history, and I can comment from experience on the last two. There is much to celebrate as we look at the signature programs and facilities we have put into place and the individuals—those “signature people” I like to talk about—who have led the way without fanfare, just doing their own part in making Methodist University the best university it can be.

Earlier this week, and in light of last week’s Board of Trustees meeting, I sent individual updates to faculty and staff, students, parents, and alumni, highlighting the many activities at the University and noting actions taken at the meeting. There was so much positive news that I decided to save some for a later update.

Why do I believe there is so much good news, in spite of all the reported challenges facing our country and our world, including concerns about college accessibility and affordability? First of all, I am “bullish” on America, and believe that our country has flourished and will continue to flourish because we have the best problem solvers on this planet. Secondly, I am “bullish” on Methodist, because not only do we graduate generation after generation of some of the best problem solvers in America, but also because we add value. Simply put, those who come here to study, to work, or to attend an event or an athletic contest gain a great deal from that experience. With our emphasis on providing an environment that is committed to a “culture of excellence,” we do it better than any other university in America.

In closing, let me make the same pledge on the first day of my third year as I made on the first day of my first year. I promise to do all I can to move this University forward and to lead our collective efforts to deliver on the promise we make to every student and every visitor who enters our gate. We deliver the finest University experience, period. We are student-centered as we are people-centered. Signature people educating signature people. One student at a time. Preparing for the next generation.

What a wonderful time to be associated with the Best University in America. And to think the best is yet to be. I think I’ll pinch myself again!

100 Partnerships Update

This week I was fortunate to attend the regular meeting of the Advisory Board to the Health Care Administration (HCA) Program, a group comprised of healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines. At a time where Methodist is expanding its health science programs, such input has never been more vital. The best health care educational programs in the country gain that status by responding to the needs of health care providers as well as the interest of prospective students. This and the other advisory boards associated with our programs ensure that we are on target and that our students will be successful in their chosen careers.

Ben Hancock
President

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Supporting a Student’s Faith Journey

Elevated VisionsLast Sunday, Debbie and I had the opportunity to visit the First United Methodist Church of Cary (FUMC) as the guests of University Trustee Rev. Dr. Carl Frazier, and his wife, Mary Ellen. Joining us were University Chaplain Mike Safley, and Dr. Michael Martin and the MU Chorale. In total, we spoke at five different events, and the Chorale performed at two services.

During my remarks, I spoke about Methodist University’s commitment to delivering on the promise we make to every student who enters our gates to ensure they succeed in every aspect of their University experience. This includes our understanding that a student’s faith journey may also be a part of their growth. This is in keeping with my opening remarks to students that I present each fall, when I share with them that from a faculty and staff perspective they are “our one thing.” This is meant to communicate to incoming students our commitment to their having a truly transformational experience.

In speaking with the FUMC Youth Assembly, I asked them if they thought they were members of the “Best Church in America,” and I repeated the question to the congregation at each of the subsequent worship services. The overwhelming and enthusiastic response was yes, which gives credence to my statement at every University event that I have the “Best Job in America” because I am President of the “Best University in America.” Should any of us want to be associated with institutions that we do not feel are the best in America—for them?

One of the fundamental principles of our faith is that we believe that our God sees each of us as his “one thing,” meaning that he has time for us and that we benefit from a hand-crafted faith experience like no other person experiences. I firmly believe that Methodist University delivers on a hand-crafted university experience like no other university. This includes a rich variety of campus worship options that engage over 400 of our students on a weekly basis, making it perhaps the largest youth ministry program in the state. Service learning is also an important component of this ministry, as these same students are active in volunteer opportunities, including mission work teams. 

Chaplain Mike Safley often comments that those students participating in these experiences have a 100% graduation rate from Methodist, which means that students who are involved stay at an institution and earn their degrees. Indeed, if we are to truly deliver on the promise, we know that one pathway for students to ensure their success is through their faith journey.

The future of Methodist University is bright, in part, because of its affiliation with the Methodist Church and its support for the expression of faith by all students. Signature partnerships like the one with First United Methodist Church Cary are key. With plans for a new Chapel on the horizon, we will be able to accommodate the increased interest by students in understanding and expressing their faith. This opportunity is what makes America strong and Methodist University strong, and supports our claim of being the “Best University in America.”

100 Partnerships

We are pleased to count First United Methodist Church of Cary as one of our signature partnerships and are grateful for the support of Rev. Dr. Carl Frazier and his staff.  Through such partnerships, we are able to serve young people at these churches and invite them to join the MU Journey.

 

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It’s Personal

A great deal of my time is spent working with my colleagues here on campus to identify ways we can increase student success. There are many retention activities under way— all designed to deliver a personalized approach to issues facing our students. In the end, no two students are the same, and thus the response to addressing the challenges they face must be “hand crafted.”

Methodist gets this right. We are delivering on the promise we make to each student who passes through our gate to maximize his or her chances of succeeding. Sometimes the issues are academic; other times they may be financial. But whatever the issue, we have developed an “all hands on deck” response to ensure that no student falls through the cracks.

In a few more weeks, I will celebrate my two-year anniversary as president of Methodist University. I am often asked what has surprised or impressed me the most during my tenure. Without hesitation, I always point out the “signature people” we have here at MU who are committed to our students and their success.

My coming to Methodist was a very personal decision and remains very personal, as Debbie and I have embraced this campus and community. We are dedicated to enhancing the “culture of excellence,” which is a hallmark of this University. And what an amazing feeling to know that for our faculty and staff, “it’s personal.” Our 2,200 students are the beneficiaries of this hand‑crafted approach, and not only will they have amazing university experiences while they are at Methodist, but they will go on to lead successful lives full of meaning and purpose.

It’s the Methodist way.

Partnership Update

We continue to celebrate the “100 Partnerships” that we have with the community that also contribute to our students’ success through providing many opportunities for experiential learning. One group that is truly making a difference is the Advisory Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship. This diverse group of business people get together several times each year and is working with Center Director Marty Cayton in developing an expanded vision for the Center. Many thanks to the CFE Advisory Board chaired by Tom Keith, President, Tom Keith & Associates, for their dedication. We look forward to hearing more about the CFE’s plans for the future.

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New Year’s Resolutions

We all make them—promises we make to ourselves of things we plan to improve during the coming year. However, we are more likely to keep those promises if we share them with others.

I remember in January 2005 I made an announcement to my family that I was going to run a marathon. There was a look of disbelief around the room, which actually increased my commitment to delivering on this New Year’s resolution. Eleven months later I crossed the finish line (along with my son, Ben) at the Richmond Marathon, and since then I have gone on to complete another full marathon (this past fall in Chicago) and six half marathons.

As president, I also make resolutions—some privately and others publicly—on ways I hope to improve the quality of life at Methodist University. As another calendar year begins, I thought I would make a New Year’s resolution for MU, knowing that by making this a “public resolution,” I will do everything I can to meet this goal.

My New Year’s resolution for Methodist is to improve our freshman retention rate and make sure we are on track to reach the goal of 65% as outlined in the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan. We were as high as 62% last year and we are making great progress through our Center for Student Success and other initiatives.

Why have I selected this area for my resolution? Because nothing is more important in what we do as a University than to deliver on the promise we make to every new student who comes through our gate that he or she will receive an exceptional education. If we don’t deliver on this promise, the rest of our goals will not matter.

I look forward to reporting further progress in future communications, and to meeting with various constituents as we first identify and then address the various hurdles that prevent students from succeeding.

A University committed to a “culture of excellence” develops signature programs that will foster excellence. Our Student Success Program is one such program and we will invest the time and resources necessary to maximize our results in this endeavor.

100 Partnerships Update

Partnerships with community organizations enhance our retention efforts as Methodist University creates opportunities for experiential learning through organizations and corporations. As we highlight “100 partnerships” during the 2012-13 year, it provides an opportunity to say “thank you” to those who are making a difference in the lives of our students who will in term make a difference in their communities.

We are fortunate to have the support of Fayetteville and surrounding communities. There has never been a great university without a great city, and we are fortunate to have progressive cities and leaders accessible to our students, faculty and staff as they enjoy a terrific quality of life, as well as benefit from a quality education. We salute the All-America City of Fayetteville and Mayor Tony Chavonne, and Spring Lake and Mayor Chris Rey for their support and interest in Methodist University.

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It’s a Wonderful Life

One of my favorite movies of the holiday season is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The lead character, portrayed by Jimmy Stewart, faces life’s disappointments regarding fame and fortune, only to find in the end that life’s real treasure is best realized through your family and friends. One need not travel to the four corners of the earth or climb the proverbial ladder of ambition to find success, as the key to living a life of meaning and purpose may be waiting for you in your own home town.

This past weekend, Methodist University not only celebrated the accomplishments of 240 graduates at our 40th Winter Commencement, but also acknowledged the contributions of two individuals who have devoted a significant portion of their lives to Fayetteville and the University community, and we have all been the beneficiaries of their commitment and love. Gene Clayton has devoted the last 50 years as an employee of Methodist – the longest serving employee in the history of the university – including his present position of vice president for Business Affairs. How different the University would have been if this Stewart-like character had chosen to leave earlier in his career rather than invest in this place he and his wife, Pat, chose to call home. For his many contributions, the University awarded him an honorary degree and invited him to be the commencement speaker.

Ms. Terri Union has given new meaning to the phrase “engaged citizen.” Whether through her leadership as owner and president of Union Corrugating Company, chair of the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, as tireless advocate of the arts, or leadership on the MU Board of Trustees, she has left her indelible mark on our “home town.” How appropriate that she received the Methodist University Medallion in recognition of her record of community engagement.

What great examples these two individuals have provided to our graduates and all present for Commencement. As I have described on many occasions when referring to the MU Journey, one of the fundamental principles of a Methodist education and indeed to American democracy is civic engagement. We are so fortunate to have these two “signature people” in our midst who exemplify our “culture of excellence.”

At this time of sharing our gifts and blessings with others, we have so much to be thankful for. Yes, real life can even be more inspiring than the movies, especially when we have such colorful and giving characters who enrich our lives and remind us that it is so much more blessed to give than to receive.

From the Hancock household to yours, many blessings for this holiday season and the New Year.

100 Partnerships

In this season of remembering children and wishing them bright futures full of love, understanding, and growth, it is appropriate to feature Methodist University’s partnership with Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, Inc., led by President Eva Hansen. We have had numerous opportunities to work together in efforts to improve the quality life for families in our community.

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An Environment of Care

This week, we dedicated the new building for our Professional Nursing Studies Program. What an amazing facility with all of its latest technology and state-of-the-art equipment in a simulation hospital that would be the envy of any medical facility in the country, let alone other educational institutions. The turnout for the ceremony was nothing short of phenomenal, as hundreds of students, faculty, staff, trustees, health care professionals, and community members squeezed into the space in front of the facility to witness the occasion.

What a beautiful setting. Thanks to the loving touch and generous gift from Dot Wyatt, we have a lovely landscape at the entrance, including gardens and a waterfall—the perfect atmosphere for our nursing students to enjoy and reflect. It represents yet another unique feature that you will only find at Methodist.

During my remarks at the dedication ceremony, I spoke of a “culture of excellence,” a phrase coined by Trustee Al Cleveland that is a fundamental guiding principle that drives what we do here at Methodist. This occasion provided the opportunity to emphasize the connectivity between health care excellence, health science excellence, and more specifically, nursing excellence. Indeed, the prescription for excellence, as defined by this special event, consists of signature people, signature programs, signature facilities, and signature partnerships—yet another unique feature you will only find at Methodist. It is not enough to do buildings right or bring exceptional programs into fruition. Without the right people—those who teach our students or our health care partners who mentor them—signature facilities and programs won’t matter.

“An environment of care.” That’s what those in attendance at the Nursing Building Dedication witnessed this week. That’s what we feel when we approach the building and its gardens. That’s what we notice when we see how the simulation hospital has been designed. That’s what we learn when we talk to the MU nursing faculty as they share their approach with the students. That’s what we know when it comes to what we do so very well at Methodist. There may be other universities who claim to do it as well, but no other university does it better.

If you were a prospective student searching for a nursing education, or a health care professional hiring a new nurse to join your team, or a patient needing care, what kind of nursing program would you embrace? For me, it would be that nurse who benefited from that “environment of care” at an institution that was guided by a “culture of excellence.”

100 Partnerships

As we celebrate “100 partnerships” between the university and the community, it is appropriate to highlight three of the many partnerships we have with health care institutions. We are so grateful to these organizations that provide clinical rotations, internships and wise counsel to our programs in the School of Health Sciences. Many thanks to the VA Medical Center and its Director, Elizabeth Goolsby; to the Cape Fear Valley Health System and its CEO, Michael Nagowski; and to Womack Medical Center and its Director, Col. Steven J. Brewster for their commitment to health care excellence and partnering with Methodist University as we create and promote an environment of care.

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Best Year Ever

Was it 1974 (the year I finished college)?
Was it 1975 (the year I married Deborah Weaver)?
Was it 1976, 1978, 1981, 1983, or 1985 (the years our children were born)?
Was it 2011 (the year I became president of Methodist University)?
Or is it 2012?

Each of us have had special years that mean a great deal to us. Sometimes, when we are in a nostalgic mood, we refer to days and years gone by as “the good ole days.” Our very own highlight reel will replay and we are flooded with thoughts of memorable occasions—births, weddings, significant occurrences, personal successes.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are so many things to be thankful for, and each passing year brings blessings of one sort or another. It is the hope for continued blessings—for ourselves and those we care about—that motivates us to move forward. In this respect, I think of 2012 as the “best year ever.”

So what was or is the best year ever for Methodist University? Was it the year of its founding? Was it the year it became a University? Can the case be made that 2012 indeed is the “best year ever?” If I truly believe that I have the best job in America because of the best students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members in America, then it is hard to argue about which year is the best.

I hope our students believe that this is the best year ever for Methodist University and for them. Faculty, staff, and community members have strived to make each student feel that way through a personal, “hand crafted” educational plan where no two students’ experiences are the same. The goal of the “MU Journey” is to create that “best year ever” experience year after year after year. Then, of course, there are the new programs and facilities to enhance their educational experiences.

So what’s the right answer to the question of “best year ever?” For those here at Methodist who believe they have the best job in America, there is only one answer. This (2012) is the best year ever, and with a motto of “the best is yet to be,” it is exciting to know that next year will also be the “best year ever.”  When our current seniors look back on 2012, I hope their first answer will be like my own: the year I graduated from Methodist University. Then after further reflection, I hope they will come to the same conclusion: “This is the best year ever because of the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me and because of my experience at MU that has led me to a fulfilling life of meaning and purpose.”

Update on 100 Partnerships

Strong community partnerships are critical to providing unique, hand-crafted educational experiences for our students. Making this the “best year ever” is contingent in part on creating 100 new partnerships with businesses, organizations, and institutions that share our commitment to our students. I would like to celebrate the newest partner, who will be assisting the University through the “MU Exclusive Program” developed by our Office of Career Services. With a commitment of providing each student with the opportunity for an internship, we have recruited partners who will provide an exclusive internship for a Methodist student. We would like to thank Finish Line for being Partnership #12.

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