On Stress: An Opportunity for Growth

Two weeks into the Fall semester, as students and faculty settle into new schedules and we begin to get a clear picture of our enrollment, it is worth focusing on the human element of higher education. The stress factor is palpable, or as all-too-common social media memes might put it, “the struggle is real.” Yet it is in that struggle that we grow. And growth is the point of education.

Stress comes in many forms. For a new student, the stress factor may be learning to navigate campus and the various services they may need. For a returning student, it may be balancing on-campus learning with off-campus commitments. For a faculty member, the stress factor may be learning to navigate the technology that allows them to teach in a multi-campus environment and building new classroom relationships. For a staff member, it may be balancing more than one role or doing more with less. For an administrator, it may be making the difficult decisions that come with competing priorities.

Here is what we know for certain: we manage stress best and experience the most growth when we come together. At Middle Georgia State, we saw a great example of shared learning last week, as many students, faculty, and staff gathered across our campuses to view a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. As a nation, we are seeing grace under pressure daily this week, as our neighbors in Texas help one another cope with the aftermath of a deadly storm.

Over the coming weeks and months, all of us at MGA will have challenges and opportunities. The dip in enrollment we have seen so far this Fall is a very real challenge. A more robust second session schedule—which will enable both new and existing students to progress toward their degrees—is an opportunity to begin turning it around.

Factors outside the classroom, such as finances and deciding which classes to take when and where, are often a challenge to degree completion. A new model we are putting in place for advising, tutoring, and understanding the business of being a student, is an opportunity to drive our progress on Complete College Georgia—which has as its central goal increasing the percentage of Georgians with post-secondary credentials to 60 percent by 2025.

We know that MGA is a great value to our students and our community. Whatever stress factors you are facing this semester, take pride in your contributions to our community of learners. Reach out to your peers. The struggle may be real, but so is our ability to grow from it together! I wish you a happy and productive semester.