At Opening Convocation, I challenged the campus community to become more engaged in the community—on campus, in the greater Cumberland County area, and in hometown communities. The ceremonies around the country marking the 10th anniversary of 9.11 are evidence of our community spirit, and in my opinion, it has never been more important for Americans to be engaged as a distinguishing feature of a democratic society.
As a university, we have been successful, if not nationally recognized, in engaging our students in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, and athletics. But there are more experiences we must offer to prepare our students for productive careers and lives of meaning and purpose. I refer to these experiences as the “MU Journey.”
There are four elements to the MU Journey that I believe are essential experiences and ones that will distinguish a Methodist University education from any other. Leadership experiences will prepare students to assume key positions in their careers, communities, churches, and other organizations. The Globalization initiative will provide every student an opportunity to study abroad and will also seek to double our number of international students to over 200, thus preparing our students to live in a more global society. Undergraduate Research and Collaboration with faculty will make our students more competitive as they consider graduate or professional school and will enhance academic rigor on campus. The Community Engagement initiative will provide every student with the opportunity for an internship or community-based experience with a team of students, working with a faculty mentor and community sponsor. These experiences will assist students in deciding on their future careers, give them much-needed experience in being competitive in their job searches, and enhance their problem-solving skills. An intentional consequence of these experiences will be to develop civically minded individuals who will become engaged members of their communities after graduation.
Task forces have been created for each of these initiatives, with the goal of developing an implementation strategy and pilot program by March 2012. Because of these and other initiatives that have been launched over the past few months, and a university-wide emphasis on community engagement, I have deemed this academic year as “The Year of the Engaged University.” Every Monarch has a journey. I invite you to join us on that journey, as it has never been a better time to be a Monarch.