Seasons of Change

We build our lives—personal and professional—in many ways around seasons of the yearly calendar.  As I write today we awoke this morning in middle Georgia to the real first feel of Autumn and a chilly 36 degrees dawn temperature, even though meteorological Autumn technically starts on September 22nd, around the Equinox.  We have reached what Keats described as “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” as the beautiful environment around us, and the world we inhabit at our working University, takes on a new season.

Typically at MGA we measure this seasonal change in three ways.  Firstly, many academic institutions take a short Fall break after mid-term examinations, in recognition by faculty and students that one quarter of the traditional academic cycle has passed.  Like all transitions this can be effortful as well as normal, in as much as some of our students are finding the demands of their studies hard-going and academic persistence or “grit” becomes an essential part of their success. Next week begins the Second Session of Fall semester, a semester in which our enrollment grew to more than 7,800 students for the first time in four years.

Operationally the University has reached the end of the First Financial Quarter (again technically at the end of September, but not readily available for review until now), when we can see whether our MGA value of Stewardship is being properly realized.  Our financial statements for the First Quarter are critically important in showing whether we are on target for our financial obligations, and I am glad to report today that our prudent stewardship and our strong Fall enrollment have given the University the equivalent of an “A” grade for financial performance so far this year.  Fall tuition revenue is up $863,360 (8.7%) over budget which positions us well for the current year as well as FY2020 and the expected $1M decrease in the online tuition differential.

Enrollment growth and fiscal sustainability are both key goals of our new Strategic Plan, Elevating Middle Georgia. One quarter into its implementation, we are seeing progress on all of the Action Items for 2018-19. For instance, our first MGA Day of Service will take place on November 30, 2018.

Finally, we measure seasonal change in our own personal lives in myriad ways—too many to mention here—that profoundly affect our understanding of ourselves, our lives, our work and our relationships.  Serving others is one thing we can tie into each season.

Amazingly we are now in the final months of the year 2018, and soon we will be celebrating Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Each year these remind us of our dependency on forces much greater than us individually, and how our history and relationships are critical to navigating our common futures.  That theme of change and continuity is a challenge that a University is uniquely called to embody in its life, its yearly cycles and its seasons.

The ancient Universities of Oxford and Cambridge still to this day build their academic calendar and their equivalent of semesters around the medieval Christian calendar of Michaelmas (Autumn), Hilary (Winter) and Trinity (Spring and Summer).  They understood that learning has its seasons, as do our lives.  And they understood that their work is grounded in something transcendent and enduring beyond our immediate place and time.

I hope you enjoy the beauty of this glorious, short and mellow season of Autumn in your personal and professional lives and relationships.