Back to School: Greatness in the Making

This week, classes began across our five campuses for the 2016-17 school year. The beginning of a school year is a time of great promise.

This year’s back-to-school coincided with the summer Olympics. As Facebook feeds were dotted with pictures of loved one’s children going off to school, and snapshots of tremendous athletic feats, we at the university have engaged in our own rituals.

We began with Faculty & Staff Convocation earlier this month, where every university employee received an update on how we are faring with respect to goals set in our first University Strategic Plan, Greatness Begins Here. Together, and then in our respective divisions, we discussed the fact that in its second year as a university, Middle Georgia State is a place of Greatness in the Making.

We have achieved some big successes—including four new graduate programs, approval of level change, support for a statewide aviation vision, expansion of athletics and a national championship in Club Football. We also became home to VECTR, a first-of-its kind center for veterans transitioning to civilian life. Yet, challenges remain for a university that operates on far less funding than our peers.

We know what we must do. We must be creative in addressing our challenges, working smarter, not merely harder. And we know that we can do it, because we are a community made up of innovative, dedicated individuals.

We will all have an opportunity to weigh in on our strategic initiatives in the coming weeks and hear more about them from our new Chief Academic Officer, who started with us on August 1. Provost Melanie Hatch came to Middle Georgia State from Penn State Dubois, and is already off to a running start, getting to know the university’s people, complexities, and opportunities.

Next, we welcomed our residential students, who moved into residence halls in Cochran, Eastman, and Macon last week. Dozens of volunteers came out to help them get settled, and to welcome their families into the Middle Georgia community.

Finally, this week, we held our second annual Freshman Convocation. The class of 2020 not only heard our Alma Mater for the first time, but they pledged to strive to live up to our values of Stewardship, Engagement, Adaptability, and Learning.

The message they heard is one that applies to us all—namely, that it is in shared learning that we find our greatness, both individual and collective.

Greatness requires hard work. Or, as 24-medal winner Michael Phelps put it, “Goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.”

Greatness requires patience. Or, as the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt described it, “I told myself, listen: don’t panic. Take your time, chip away, and work your way back in.”

Greatness requires your unique gifts. Or as the world’s best gymnast said, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Each of us is the first to be who we are, where we are, at this moment. Together, we can make this moment and this year one of not only promise, but of great memories and great results.