Dear Alumni and Friends,
College is our last good chance to become truly uncomfortable—and benefit from the discomfort. Like snakes, crabs, spiders, and cicadas, we grow by shedding our juvenile skins and letting the air of new ideas that circulates on campus help us to refashion ourselves.
One of the delightful things I remember about college was that it wasn’t high school. I had a chance to be myself, without people who had known me for four or five years pushing me right back into a mold that, as far as they knew, was the only one I could fill. I was given frequent chances to stretch and test myself, as I explored unfamiliar ideas and subjects. I had oh so many opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.
Appreciating what’s different in the college experience is a key to understanding its value. It’s not possible for every student to live on campus (some are commuters), but it’s a beneficial aspect of college for those who can. It’s not practical for all new students to sample every subject in the curriculum, but it’s essential that they try some things beyond their comfort zones. It’s not reasonable to expect every student to come to college with no classmates from high school alongside, but it’s good for all new students to meet people who are more different from them than anyone they’ve met before.
|In the United States today we are going through a phase in our national experience when colleges and universities are popular targets for attack.|
It often happens that students or their parents will complain in the early weeks of college about the strange people, the strange ideas, the strange requirements, or the strange values they encounter. For that to happen is understandable. For those of us on campus in teaching, advising, and administrative roles to hear those concerns with a modicum of sympathy is natural. For Nebraska Wesleyan to bend, twist, and reshape itself around such discomforts, though, would be inappropriate. It would undermine our commitment to intellectual and personal growth that is at the heart of Nebraska Wesleyan’s mission. It would be alien to the free play of ideas that we cherish as a university. That free play of ideas is something our founding church—with which Nebraska Wesleyan still is affiliated—the United Methodist Church, also wants us to cherish.
In the United States today we are going through a phase in our national experience when colleges and universities are popular targets for attack. There’s criticism that fees are too high; but quality of the kind found at Nebraska Wesleyan has a cost. There’s concern that different colleges have different requirements; but who really wants our school to be just like University X or College Y? There are complaints that students leave college with debts, but what major investments in our lives (houses and vehicles, for example) don’t require us to borrow?
Our vision for Nebraska Wesleyan University commits us to providing a “transformative educational experience.” I promise you that in fulfilling that vision we will hold on to this school’s well-deserved reputation for high quality. And we will continue to make students uncomfortable—for the sake of the lives they will live, the successes they will have, and the services they will provide in their careers and their communities. For the sake of transformations that are every bit as remarkable as snakes, crabs, spiders, and cicadas shedding their skins.