In math, we can sometimes talk of a number that takes on the smallest value in a sequence, with all following values being greater than that original number. I found myself thinking of this recently as I realized that these days are the very beginning of a new school year, one that will begin to unfold this weekend. For, at our college, this weekend will include “convocation,” a time to welcome our new students and to celebrate the days that are the start of a new semester.
There is much excitement on our campus these days. Two new buildings have appeared over the past year, including one classroom building that was planned several years ago and a new gym that is the haphazard “gift” of a tornado that tore apart the campus in July of 2013. We have a new college president, a dynamic local Ursuline Sister with strong roots at our college, and enrollment is up following several years of struggles to obtain students. Last (and I am sure least) of the changes is the return of the Mathematics Department to what is once again the Math and Science Building, after our year in exile while the building was being repaired. As we move back into our old offices, we are joined by over forty other full time faculty members who are packing up their offices and moving around campus, in what seems like a great big game that is part “dominoes” and part “musical chairs.” Our former college President used to say that the only constant we could count on is change. That is certainly the case as we look forward to the start of a new school year.
As is often the case, my new year begins on the same day as my daughter’s new school year, leading to a few days of chaos and confusion, which will eventually calm down as the rhythm of the year comes together.
As this new semester begins, I send good wishes to you, my readers, many of whom will soon start new years of their own. May you find many days of engagement with your students, days that give your life meaning. May you be there to observe the look of recognition on students’ faces that could only come from a “light bulb” going off in their brains as they make the connections that you hope they will make. May you spend peaceful days, either in the library or in your office (wherever that may be) mulling over the very issues that brought you into academia in the first place. And for those who work on proving things, may you realize the truth that someone told me once in graduate school; that “Q.E.D.” is Latin for “ta-da!” As I am currently working on something that involves a proof, I am hoping for a “ta-da” moment myself.
For those who have students who are excited about and majoring in your own field, may your excitement be contagious and may they walk away from encounters with you more determined to study the subject that gives your work meaning. For those whose students are not necessarily following in your footsteps, may you find the means to inspire those students so their time with you leaves them with a better understanding of important concepts that will help them in their lives. And for those who teach and advise graduate students, may you be there as you are graced to see the next generation of lineage in your subject emerge. And for those of us who do any of these, may we all be reminded what a great blessing that it is to be part of the undertaking known collectively as “higher education.
I recall a professor once telling me that one of the advantages to being a professor is that, no matter how poorly a semester goes, we can always count on there being a new beginning, a chance to come back and get it right. For those, like me, who know that we need to work to “get it right” this time, I wish the best as this new chance to do so emerges in the next few days.
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