Learning in Transition

Last year, at our first united Convocation, I asked us as a learning community to be a change-ready, risk-taking institution, and then added the caveat that the term “risk” implies both achievement and falling-short, both success and failure until we reach our new goal. I suggested that risk teaches us lessons on how to get better, sometimes from hard knocks, and that without risk we would never improve and be ready for University status. The road upward is not always linear, but has highs and lows and often spirals back on itself.

As we enter our final week as a state college, while students focus on summer classes, our faculty and staff are busy laying the groundwork for days ahead.  Some of that work will be obvious in the coming weeks—with new signage, new titles and organizational changes, new students on campus for orientation, and a new academic year on the horizon. Much of the work, however, continues behind the scenes building on what we have accomplished to this point.

We took imaginative and promising risks this year in our work, as individuals and as an organization, as did the old Macon State and Middle Georgia colleges in earlier years and decades.  Like them, we didn’t always get it right.  We sometimes stumbled.  We sometimes didn’t see how to move forward.  We sometimes had to re-calibrate.  We sometimes had to own that we were wrong. But through trial and error, perseverance and focus, movement and re-direction we have improved and now look to an elevated future as a state University.

Last week’s news about the temporary delay of the start of our new graduate programs in Information Technology and Nursing—programs that “clinch” our official elevated status as a fully operational University in the eyes of our accrediting body, SACSCOC—stands in that tradition of risk-taking.  While we have not yet crossed the finish line and feel some frustration and disappointment at having to try longer and better at this particular race, we know that we will cross that finish line very soon (actually, I suppose, it is more like a start line, because that is when the degrees will start!)

Becoming a University is not dissimilar from re-inventing a College.  By that I mean that yesterday’s practices will need to be re-invented, re-imagined, re-visioned.  The faculty and staff developing our graduate programs are, in a sense, some of the first to tackle this task.  We thank them for their vision and courage, we sympathize with the set-back of having to review and re-present their proposals, and we urge them to do so with renewed vigor, clarity and commitment.

We will move forward with confidence as University professionals because our institutional history and our thousands of graduates each year point to our capacity for hard-earned success.  As professionals whose core values include adaptability and learning, let us be comfortable that our own learning is ongoing, if sometimes difficult and requiring us to do better. Learning brings a level-change in life and we are ready to continue adapting together as a University.

We currently use the word “greatness” in our messaging to speak to the lives and aspirations of our students.  True greatness at Middle Georgia State, as in life, is something that is complex and messy.  As the late great English conductor, Sir Colin Davis, pointed out: “The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.”  We can be assured that learning is the principle that endures on that road and ensures we will reach our successes, as those generations before us have repeatedly shown.