When a pool is more than a place to swim

Methodist UniversityThis past week, I was fortunate to receive a presentation from a group of Leadership Fellows who have conducted a feasibility study for a pool at the University. While the students from the Lura S. Talley Center for Leadership Development may have thought they had simply fulfilled a commitment to conduct the study over the past year, for me as president it was much more.

As an educator and especially as a university president, I sometimes wonder if our students are maximizing their MU experience. Like my own five children, I want the best for them and worry like a parent if they are taking advantage of all that is available to them. Are they developing problem-solving skills that will last them a lifetime? Are they learning to work as a team, collaborating with one another toward a common goal? Are they perfecting their communication skills, oral and written, to help them make compelling cases for things they think are right and worth doing?

“It’s all about asking the right questions” is something my own faculty mentors reminded me during my collegiate career – a message that still proves relevant as I address issues facing higher education and Methodist University specifically. Will it be used by the campus community? How can the case be made for the use of the pool across the campus? What will it cost and what will be the funding sources? How does this project compare with other campus facility needs? What are the potential risks associated with operating a pool? What will be the time line for building a pool? The Fellows not only had the answers to these and other questions, but also were prepared through a survey conducted within the University community to provide hard data and a compelling case for support.

As was the case with my own children when they were growing up, I needn’t worry about MU students, especially this group of Leadership Fellows who represent some of the best students in America (like the rest of the MU students, by the way!). They reminded me once again that MU gets it right, thanks to the faculty and staff who work with our students every day to provide the tools that will equip them to solve the problems of tomorrow and to collaborate with one another, thus building vibrant and engaged communities. (A special thank-you is in order to Talley Center Director Andrew Ziegler and other faculty mentors.)

So will there be a pool at Methodist University? The short answer is yes, the construction of a pool is included in the University’s Master Plan developed four years ago and we will eventually build one. But the feasibility study conducted by the Leadership Fellows and the passion with which they tackled their assignment convinced me and the other administrators present that a second phase University feasibility study for a pool should be conducted in the coming year, followed by the development of architectural plans and a funding strategy. Once the funding has been secured, we should be in a position to move forward to the construction phase. This all becomes possible because of the study by this group of students who provided a compelling case for action on the MU campus.

The Leadership Fellows project was more than a feasibility for a pool. It was the essence of what we do so well at Methodist – preparing our students to be tomorrow’s leaders. The Best Students in America, indeed.

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