Today I am especially proud to be a member of the alumni, faculty and staff of Northern Kentucky University. In my current roles as faculty and administrator, I find myself at times mired in the minutiae of preparing and running a classroom, grading and posting, and emailing and reporting. And I forget why it is I’ve committed myself to a career in higher education. This morning, President Geoffrey Mearns reminded me that it’s because I truly believe in the power of an impactful learning experience. Today, through the release of NKU’s promise, I am reminded that I, too, am committed to putting students first, leading with excellence, and making a lasting impact. And I hope by reading this post (even if you aren’t a member of NKU’s community), you’re also able to recommit yourself to these purposes.
I admit it. I entered today’s NKU Convocation with hesitance toward what I would hear and learn. I admit I’m a skeptic and approach all such moments with caution. But this morning I was reminded that my experience at NKU brought me to where I am today. My experience with committed faculty, passionate staff, and inspiring mentors provided me the opportunity to excel and succeed, and without them I would not have been able to continue on with my studies and work. And, today, I became especially thankful and grateful for those experiences. Today I recommitted myself to providing those same opportunities to my students and my University.
NKU’s promise, “To put our students first. To lead with excellence. To make a lasting impact.” reminds me that my job isn’t just a job. My job is much more than my daily work. My job is to make sure my students—our students—have opportunities to realize dreams. It’s been some time since I’ve been in a classroom with desperately underprepared students, but today I remembered those moments. I remembered those moments when my faith in humanity was challenged because I saw and heard horrific daily realities of my students who somehow overcame and made it to class, homework in hand ready to learn.
Today I learned about an NKU student who was very much like those who first inspired me. At the death of his father in 2007, his mother told him she would never live to see him kick his addiction to drugs. In December, not only did she see him drug free, she watched him walk across the stage to collect his well-deserved college diploma. I also learned about two future NKU students (now in middle school) who were excited to learn from President Mearns that attending NKU meant an opportunity to experience the big city of Cincinnati—to live beyond their small area of Eastern Kentucky. Today, through the generosity of several NKU alumni, they will experience the best sides of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati with trips to the Newport Aquarium and Aronoff Center (an announcement that brought tears to their eyes and mine). It’s moments like these that inspire me to continue on in higher ed. I know, because of the difficult barriers and amazing triumphs, that this field is where I belong.
As administrators and staff, we often become so far removed from direct student interaction that we forget why it is we keep doing it. So, today, I’m reflecting. I’m taking time to think back to those particular students who helped me see that higher education is so much more than one class, one instructor, one semester. Education is futures and hopes, and families and children. Education is making a lasting impact in everything we do. I am humbled, and honored, and grateful to be part of a student’s learning experience. And today I recommit myself to putting that first in everything I do. I hope each of you do, too.