Friday, Dec. 10, 2021
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
“Life is difficult!”
And rewarding. And exciting. And exhilarating. But, as I remind our students at every opportunity, we must prepare to be able to overcome our challenges along the way.
I vividly remember how puzzled I was when in my senior year at LSU, I read the ageless, wonderful book The Road Less Traveled by the late Dr. M. Scott Peck. He alerts us in his opening statement that “Life is difficult” in preparation to lay a roadmap to success in front of the reader.
We all can attest to the fact that our worthwhile encounters, the visible and the invisible, the expected and the unexpected, have often challenged us beyond our limits. Or so we thought when we were “in the soup.” No end in sight, no solution apparent and no clear path forward.
No, I am not talking about nearly two years ago when we faced the strange virus with a stranger name, although that is not a bad example. We were up the Covid creek, with no masks, no vaccines and nowhere to go. But we found a way. In short order, here at S&T, dozens of university and personal “printers” were gathered and our students, faculty and staff were 3D printing masks and face shields for our hospital, police and fire departments, and other first responders. In less than a week, the university was “online.” We had numerous virtual townhalls throughout that spring, summer and fall, and we made sure that even though the campus was closed, the university wasn’t.
It is fair to say that we have come a long, long way since that time and life is beginning to look rewarding, exciting and exhilarating again, thanks to our faculty, staff and students who were prepared to take on the challenge.
It is not until the challenge is addressed, the final exam is taken, the experiments are conducted, the reports written, the course completed and the graduation attained that we realize we are indeed capable beyond our imagination, equipped to achieve almost anything and able to push our boundaries. It is only after the hard work, perseverance and endless effort that we realize WOW, we have built an arsenal of SKAs (skills, knowledge and abilities) to confront our seemingly most formidable challenges. It is then that we see our well-lived life, one filled with struggle, challenges and hard work, as rewarding, exciting and exhilarating.
As our students, like students everywhere, prepare for the finals, I hear and witness their challenges and struggles. A couple of days each week, I grab my lunch and ask for permission to sit at a table with our students in the Havener Center, our student union. It is my opportunity to hear from our students at random. “…I have four reports due in a week and five finals next week, with three finals in one day.” “Will this ever end?” “Will I be able to breathe again?”
You will, I say. Many, many have and you will too. Your S&T experience has made you capable, able and hopefully prepared to face your challenges. Don’t underestimate yourself. Realize that these learning agility experiences will become your life-long teacher for when you need to know when to do what, when you don’t know when to do what!
As a Missouri S&T student, you already are on a “road less traveled.” The S&T rigor, with our tech-centric focus that touches every major, emphasizes experiential learning to prepare our students for their careers and their lives, and creates a tremendous return on investment for our students and their families.
Yes, the struggle is real, but so is the payoff. The latest outcomes report from our career opportunities and employer relations office shows that the average starting salary for our May 2021 graduates was over $65,000 for bachelor’s degree grads, over $79,000 for master’s degree graduates, and nearly $99,000 for doctorate graduates! In addition, starting salaries for S&T graduate students (master’s and Ph.D.s combined) rose 7.4% to a record average of $82,089. No wonder College Factual named S&T the best public university for engineering in terms of ROI.
To our dedicated students I say, life appears to be difficult at the moment! And as finals week approaches, the challenges may feel endless. But soon you will see that the rewards of pursuing a Missouri S&T degree, of taking the road less traveled, will pay off greatly. Just know that your hard-earned SKAs and your learning agility has prepared you to tackle new first-time challenges.
So I say, keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course. Soon, in the “real world,” you will provide critical contributions to critical challenges.
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