On Change: Adaptability and Discourse

This weekend I join my father to celebrate his 90th birthday, and am powerfully reminded of the extraordinary change and growth in our human life and knowledge since 1926. A human life is faced with and capable of living through extraordinary change.

We live in a time of great progress, yet palpable strife. Change is the only constant, and on a college campus, it—transformation—is our mission. Each semester as educators and professionals, we welcome a new crop of students, having bid farewell to another class.

Our graduates enter, re-enter, or advance in the workforce and become a force for societal change. Individually, our students expect that a university credential will change their lives for the better. Statistics show that—at least financially—it can. According to a study by Georgetown University, someone with a baccalaureate degree earns on average 84% more than someone who only has a high school diploma.

Unlike for my father’s generation, or even my own, higher education today is a prerequisite for most gainful employment opportunities. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, by the year 2020, 60% of jobs in this state will require a post-secondary credential.

The change our students undergo in their time with us, however, must happen both inside and outside the classroom. A university is meant to be a place of engagement and dialogue, where students become better equipped to cope with life’s challenges, not just skilled to perform certain tasks.

One of the ways we equip our students is by exposing them to new ways of thinking. For example, we broaden their horizons by increasing their opportunities to participate in international programs.

We recognize that such opportunities may seem out of reach for some students financially. As such, one area of focus for MGA is informing our students about scholarships, such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, offered by the State Department-affiliated Institute for International Education to Pell grant recipients.

We are also continuing to build partnerships with foreign universities to offer discipline-specific study abroad programs for students. We hope to welcome our first group of Early Childhood Education majors from Northampton University to MGA in April for a two-week program in which they will “shadow” our students on student-teaching placements. We will then send our first group of students to Northampton next fall.

As I think back to my first transatlantic flight and how it changed my perspective, I am grateful for my father’s encouragement as I expanded my horizons beyond what he might have imagined possible as a young man growing up in 1940s England. We do not know what our students’ futures hold, but by being a force for positive change in their lives, we are equipping them for the journey.

Adaptability is one of our key values and I would suggest is indeed a virtue. It doesn’t mean sacrificing principle or constancy, but rather an undertaking that timeless truths need re-living constantly and for each generation in a new way.