red leaves on a tree with the sunlight shining above the grass and through the trees

It’s a time when we often reflect on what has been happening in our lives personally and professionally, as we recognize the seasons also changing around us. This combination of reflection and change is often what we think about when characterizing what it means to be an educational institution where learning is at the center – learning that requires considering new ideas, often very challenging and distinct ideas from our common parlance, and reflecting on those concepts and beliefs we have internalized, taken for granted, and acted upon.

One of my own tactics in teaching about leadership and academic administration has always been to encourage my student colleagues and myself to make assumptions conscious so they can be interrogated and reconsidered in light of new thinking whether that comes from discussions with others, reading about new ideas, or being confronted with circumstances where “we’ve always done it this way” just doesn’t work. Sometimes, we all come to new understandings and ways of being; other times, we have more clarity on why we hold the beliefs we do. But regardless, we are experiencing versions of challenge and support, reflection and integration of ideas – what education is supposed to be about.

As we continue towards a short break and into the last weeks of the term, it is helpful to consider all that we have been through together in the last several months of this academic year and the last many months of the multiple pandemics, as well as how we will chart our individual paths and collective futures.

  • What have we learned?
  • What embedded assumptions of life, education, and the academy have been challenged?
  • What is our role in creating the MSU of the future we most want to see?

These are not straightforward questions sometimes. However, WE will create the university of the future in small and large ways, doing so seems closely tied to how we consider our unique identities; the ways we strive to respect, support and are inclusive of others; what allies and groups we have found to be within the community; and how we construct and validate our contributions to the missions of MSU.

I am thankful for all your contributions to each other, your dedication to the issues, and your willingness to listen, grow, and share. You have all given so much of yourselves to the community, grappling with the difficult and exciting aspects of individual and institutional change.

Renewal and learning, like season changes, take time and intention. So that we don’t lose sight of what matters most in our own lives, even while experiencing the dissonances of learning and change. My hope for all of you is that time away from campus next week is an opportunity to pause, to be reflective, and to recognize what positive learning has occurred in this period of change. That is certainly a goal I have for myself when spending time with those I hold dear.