There’s nothing like starting a new academic year – everything is fresh, the energy is palpable, there is hopeful optimism, and anything seems possible.
For many of us in higher ed, the kickoff for the academic year is the real beginning of a new year. New Year’s Eve never meant much to me, as January 1st never felt any different from December 31st. The first day of classes, on the other hand, feels much different from the day before classes begin. The new academic year is pure potential.
This has always been my favorite time of year. When I was younger, it was a time of new beginnings and optimism, as well as new clothes, pens, pencils, books, and teachers. It’s still the best time of year – welcoming new and returning students, reconnecting with colleagues, and launching the new courses, programs, and initiatives we spent months (or years) planning. Several years ago, when I ran the MBA Program at MIT Sloan, I loved watching the new students coming to campus with a mix of excitement and anxiety – as well as the returning students who recognized themselves in the new students, realizing how much they’d grown during the previous year. As administrators and educators, we also get a fresh start and a clean slate – and a chance to continue to grow.
Those of us who work in and around higher education are fortunate. Education – both formal and informal – has the ability to transform individuals and societies and, along with love and health, is among the most important components of a fulfilling life. Learning something new can help to assuage the negative effects of stress and the lessons from our best teachers change our thinking and help us better understand the world for years to come.
Even with the many problems our industry faces (e.g., outdated business models, declining enrollments, new entrants to the higher ed market, etc.), we should never lose sight of the ability we have to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. Or their ability to make a (usually positive) difference in ours.
This fall I’m teaching two classes, Managing Yourself and Others and Advanced Strategy/Strategic Business Insights – each class includes some tried-and-true elements, as well as new experiments, some "evergreen" reading, as well as new material. I am still learning, too.
While not all that’s ahead of us this academic year is invigorating or pleasant (e.g., exams, grading, dealing with revenue shortfalls), it’s nice to have this new beginning – a time to recommit, try new things, and impact the future.
Wishing you all a wonderful academic year ahead.