Sometimes a college is like a tale of two cities

Sometimes a college is like a tale of two cities.  Some good news, other times things are harder.  Of course, that is the very nature of learning itself, a mix of trial and error, even though we often overlook the word “error” in that phrase.  We are not a culture that appreciates easily the reality of failure in the human condition.

It is essential that MGSC becomes comfortable with some calculated risk – and perhaps sometimes error or failure – as it grows toward a university and reaches outside its comfort zone.  For each of us who work here, comfort may be a desirable norm, but venture and risk are equally essential if we are to grow and realize our potential.  At the recent town hall gatherings I mentioned that we should applaud our faculty and staff who innovate and create, even if things don’t always work out as well as expected.

For students, this experience of success and failure is a reality every day.  They are aware through their grades, performance, participation and engagement that their degree programs don’t proceed as smoothly as they like.

But we can make a huge difference to influence the outcome toward success for them.  This past week I had “a tale of two cities” encounters with two different students of MGSC in the same afternoon.  One was a chance conversation when I was having my hair cut, and soon my hairdresser and I learned we had something in common.  She was an applicant to MGSC, and of course I work here.  It was troubling to hear her say she would like to come to Middle Georgia State, but had not been given any response to questions she had posed during her inquiries.  Later that evening, I was heartened when the server at a café told me that the best experience he had known in life was being a student here at MGSC.

We can use both our successes and failures  to guide our path forward.  Both can inform us how better we can serve our students and the public.  That is, in my view, the reconciliation of the market term “customer” with the academic term “student.”  We have an obligation to deliver a certain quality of service, and realize a certain standard of relationship, in how we esteem and support our students.  For me, it is about serving them with diligence, commitment, seriousness and integrity.  I am less concerned with the labels we use than the relationships we commit to in helping the persons who provide the rationale for why we come to work: our students.

As we prepare for the end of this academic year, I thank you for what you have done to fulfil your obligation to our students, and I challenge us to think of how we can realize that even more fully in the coming year.

Christopher Blake, Ph.D.
Middle Georgia State College