It’s August and the season of getting the last days of summer vacation in, taking a trip to the state fair, finishing off that remaining book on the summer reading list (or, for new first-year students, finishing The Odyssey), looking ahead to fall harvest, or more. But for me, it’s all about gearing up for the coming academic year.
Across campus, we are all preparing for the new academic year. A new year brings forth opportunities and challenges – those known and those yet to be discovered. For students, a new academic year may provide the promise of a fresh new beginning or the advancement of an existing plan. It may include setting new and achievable goals or restructuring how the minutes in a day are used. It may begin with good-faith efforts to get a good night’s sleep, eat well, and be active daily.
For me, it’s making sure we are ready- ready to welcome, respond to, and engage with students who bring a myriad of different interests, needs, identities, and much more to campus. The list could go on but the simple premise is we are ready to welcome students back to campus, or to campus for their first time. Welcoming goes beyond the simple hello, although that’s a good start. It extends further into ensuring a student can access the resources and opportunities they need to flourish at Luther. Students may not always know what they need or the questions to ask. You may field some of those inquiries. If we can be of help in discerning what is being sought, please reach out; it’s our goal to understand what a student might be trying to convey. Across campus, students will encounter employees (faculty and staff) who work here because they, the students, are here.
Their experience with faculty, staff, administration, coaches, ensemble directors, work-study supervisors, and others influence how they experience Luther. Of course, their peers have a significant role in their experience as well. What students do while at Luther matters. Their engagement in the classroom, the residence halls, their work-study assignment, the playing surfaces, and stages on which they compete and perform all matter and drive their capacity to thrive at Luther.
Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times has written frequently about the college experience. On page 127 of his book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, he cites Luther College as a place that “has proven to be a surprisingly sturdy cradle for winners of some of the most prestigious academic prizes.” This is possible because students have engaged with their professors and their own curiosity. They have sought mentors to guide them through their college experience.
On August 17, Bruni published an op-ed, “How to Get the Most Out of College”, and offered sage advice for students and families who are in the process of making college decisions, going to college for the first time, or returning to campus to continue their studies. In recent years, he has visited many campuses and interviewed many higher education experts and has had interactions with recent graduates.
Below are some salient excerpts from Bruni's op-ed:
"My focus is on optimal ways to socialize, to prioritize, to pick up skills integral to any career and to open up exciting opportunities both en route to a degree and after you’ve acquired it. Not nearly enough of the roughly 20 million Americans who are beginning or resuming college over the coming weeks pause, in their trepidation and exhilaration, to think about that."
"Many students, nervous about a new environment, follow friends from high school or people whose demographic backgrounds match their own into homogeneous cocoons. That can indeed provide solace and support. But it’s also a wasted opportunity — educationally, morally, strategically. Diversity opens you to an array and wealth of ideas, and being comfortable with it is an asset in just about any workplace or career. You can decide to establish that comfort in college."
"Instead, the game changers include establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization. What all of these reflect are engagement and commitment, which I’ve come to think of as overlapping muscles that college can and must be used to build. They’re part of an assertive rather than a passive disposition, and they’re key to professional success.…"
"Be careful, especially at the beginning of college, about spending too much time alone. Isolation can become its own bad habit, and prying eyes can be the best insurance policy against destructive behavior. Regulate time on social media, where discourse can be barbed and peers curate honeyed alter egos that stoke insecurity in those looking at them. Don’t drink too much and don’t shortchange sleep, as prosaic as that sounds. And work out in some way."
I encourage you to review his full op-ed and others he has written. What he offers provides good grist for conversation with your student and how they are approaching their passions and emerging plans and possibilities.
Last spring, the Student Senate completed their work on developing the Norse Creed, an aspirational expression of what it means to be a student at Luther. In several ways, their statement aligns with the advice and counsel Mr. Bruni offers in his many writings.
The Norse Creed
I am a Luther Norse.
I am a citizen of the world.
I am inclusive and compassionate to all.
We value and recognize all faiths.
We are a diverse Community.
I engage in learning beyond my interests.
I display integrity through my actions.
We hold ourselves and each other accountable.
We project Leadership.
I am determined to make the world sustainable.
I possess an open mind.
We show reverence for individuals.
We demonstrate Respect.
We are learning to be well rounded people.
We are becoming more.
We Are Luther.
—Adopted by Student Senate, Spring 2018
Bruni, F. (2018, August 17). How to Get the Most Out of College. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/17/opinion/college-students.html
Bruni, F. (2016). Where you go is not who you’ll be: An antidote to the college admissions mania. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.