After listening to a presentation recently by author Heather Lende, I asked her why she doesn’t spend more time on the speaker’s tour, as her message is one that would resonate with communities like Methodist. The response from this Haines, Alaska (population 2,493) resident was simple, “I don’t like being away from home that much.”
I can certainly identify with Heather’s sentiments, as I feel the same way when I leave MU (population 2,474). That “small town feeling” is what makes our community special. I literally feel like I’m letting people down when I’m away, although the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to miss anything. In fact, if I’m out of town on University business for a few days, one of the students will inevitably ask me, “Where have you been? We haven’t seen you in a while!” Now, how’s that for making you feel like you are part of a community and people notice when you’re there or not? My hope and desire is that every member of the MU community has that same sense of belonging to this place.
Our University community is actually a series of neighborhoods like you would find in any small town. The residents identify with their residence hall, athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or other organization. Each fulfills a student’s need for belonging. It’s what brings students to Methodist and what keeps them here. Once they join the community, they don’t want to let anyone down by leaving.
When I first visited Methodist in November 2010 for my interview for the presidency, I reflected on that visit by saying “It’s the kind of place that you can wrap your arms around and it hugs you back.” Nearly six years later, I feel the same way today, as the recipient of so many more hugs than I could possibly have given.
One of the phrases we often use as we offer nuggets of advice to our students is, “It’s all about relationships.” Here at Methodist you learn that early in your University experience, and it’s then extended and applied to learning and eventually work experiences.
I’m so glad I chose Methodist and equally glad that Methodist chose me. Both are required for a successful relationship. And I’m so excited for our new students as they discover MU for themselves and create lifelong relationships as they join a new community and neighborhood that welcomes them with open arms. It’s “coming home” for the first of many times – over four years and over a lifetime as this small town of caring people draws you back.
Heather Lende, thank you for sharing Haines with me. I have found my own home at Methodist and I invite you to visit our community in the near future. You won’t want to leave it!