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.