Friday, August 19, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Although 40 years have passed, I can vividly remember the first day of my freshman year at LSU and the amalgam of feelings that came with it. The excitement of college mixed with uncertainties of the new country and new culture, as well as the sheer fear of having to learn a new language and to adapt. The mixed emotions were enough to startle me to the point of resorting to my survivalist mode of existence and to the point that I had to force confidence in my senses. “It’s going to be all fine,” I kept repeating to myself quietly. “Just learn the roles and play accordingly.”
Flash forward to this week when I had lunch with many of our new students who had the same feelings, fears and excitement, perhaps with the exception of challenges of language and culture. In my conversations with them, they couldn’t wait to tell me why they were considering their majors and how excited they were to meet new friends and participate in design teams. They were concerned about their levels of preparedness due to disruptions of their high school education during the past two years. They talked about calculus, physics, chemistry and biology. History, economics, computer science and nuclear engineering. Mining engineering and architectural engineering. “How hard is my major?” several asked. “I am excited and a little worried since I know this is a lot different than high school,” others said.
I assured them that their worry and level of anxiety is normal. I also told them that, from time to time, they will be challenged and that the efforts will be well worth the reward. At the same time, I assured them of all the programs and mechanisms in place to help them, referring them to our Student Well-Being website, wellbeing.mst.edu, and the comprehensive list of services available to them.
I invited them to our MinerRama, where they can choose to participate in clubs that interest them, or maybe try something they’ve never tried before. Learn blacksmithing, or swing dancing, or play rugby or chess or ultimate Frisbee, or build a concrete canoe. With over 250 student organizations, our students can find at least one that fits their interests.
Ours is an exciting environment this year at S&T with the return to a fully in-person campus experience while we apply what we have learned over the past two pandemic years to improve our instruction. For example, two members of our English and technical communication faculty, Dr. Jossalyn Larson and Elizabeth Robison, developed an early intervention program to help students struggling with introductory courses.
Most importantly, I remind our new and returning students to actively make friends and to enjoy their years here at S&T. Without a doubt, I assure them, these years will be their most memorable, and their futures will be grounded in the realities and experiences of today. To be able to tap into the shared wisdom of S&T’s rich collection of experiences, views and identities, I encouraged them to adopt an inclusive behavior, embrace diversity and become positively curious about differences.
That’s the way to overcome challenges — move to striving from struggling, and complete the journey and the work in progress that they have so nicely started. And in the end, it’s going to be all fine.
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