Weekly update: Lessons as we begin a new academic year August 22, 2022
- We are welcoming the largest first-year class in our history – more than 6,000 students. It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves about the obligations we have to each other as members of this special community.
- A committee I empaneled last spring is examining current and future workplace needs for our residential campus. Their work is ongoing. I expect to examine and act upon their recommendations in the coming weeks. As I indicated in June, current workplace arrangements stay in place while this important work continues.
- We continue to be vigilant about the public health challenges that face our community and our country – such as COVID and monkeypox – and have ample resources and information to support the health and wellness of our campus.
I had the privilege Friday night of welcoming the largest first-year class in our history. It was wonderful to see so many new faces, excited about the possibilities of a new year and all this special place has to offer.
I hope some of what we talked about in terms of priorities for the year might apply to us all. As we start a new academic year together, I offer some of those comments in a spirit of anticipation for what is ahead.
Class of 2026,
All of you want to be successful. We want that for you as well.
But tonight, as you begin your college careers, I would ask you think about success, perhaps, a little differently. College, after all, is not about expecting perfection. That’s not real.
It is about finding your meaning, and your purpose. That search – the idea of exploration – will take you lots of places. Some of them will be good. Some will be challenging.
You will have moments of great success. That’s within each of you. We see it in each of you. And we want to help you find those moments as you find your path. But you will – trust me – have moments where things don’t go so well.
You will fail. That’s OK, too. In fact, it’s necessary. The road to exceptional – finding a life of meaning and purpose – is filled with exceptional bumps and hurts. That’s life – part of its beauty and wonder is its fragility and potential to break and mend our hearts.
So, before we turn you loose to begin your exploration, consider a few opening lessons (from this teacher) about the journey you are about to take with us:
First, this is a safe place to explore. Be willing to ask for help. Take advantage of it. We are here to support you. We’ve put in place all kinds of services to catch you when you fall and help you get up when you need to get going again.
Get to know your teachers and advisers. They have a lot of wisdom to impart, and they are here to help you. We have experts in every imaginable field, from around the world. Seek them out. Ask questions. Find answers.
Second, be willing to get close to people and ideas. Take some chances. Meet new people and explore new ideas and concepts. Challenge yourself to move just a bit outside what you know or what is comfortable. As one grandmother told her grandson many years ago, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance … You have to get close.”
Getting to know your true self and identity often means understanding someone else and their perspective just a little better. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and the journey will be a lot more fun and meaningful.
Third, be willing to give yourself a break. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Once you realize that perfection isn’t a real goal – meaning is – you can be free of the stress and the worry of having to reach something that isn’t attainable or even real. You can be kind to yourself, and you should find it within you to be kind to others. That means accepting folks who are a little different from you.
We all are different. Everyone brings something new, wonderful and interesting to this community. You are what make us special.
Embrace the process and idea, as one thinker described it, of moving “from the common economy of merit to the wondrous economy of grace.” We need a little more grace, and a little less judgment in our world, after all.
Finally, be good. Do good. There are plenty of opportunities here for that. Take advantage of them. As you find your path, one that you will share with others, and as you ask for help, don’t forget to offer it, too. No one gets anywhere by themselves. That also is an illusion. The truth is we are stronger and better as individuals when we find ways to act together in – and with – community.
Big Blue Nation isn’t only a cheer or rallying cry at a game. Here, it is our way of saying that we accept you for who you are, and we accept each other for what we bring to our special community.
The author, John Steinbeck, wrote that “now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Do that in community with each other.
Let us help you find your path. Let us help you be successful. Let us help you find your meaning and your purpose, your sense of self and your sense of being part of something larger by being part of a community.
The journey won’t always be easy. But know that it’s a journey – Class of 2026 – that we are so excited to take together with you.
Work location examination
Last spring, I empaneled a Work Location Workgroup – with broad representation from across the campus – to examine the current and future needs of the workplace on our residential campus.
The committee has done extensive research internally and among other institutions about how these issues are currently handled and the evolving nature of the workplace.
That work is continuing, and I expect to receive recommendations from a steering committee in the next several weeks that senior leaders and I will assess. In the meantime, as I communicated in June, current workplace arrangements remain in place.
For background on the work taking place, you can review my message from June as well as this website with additional information.
COVID and monkeypox
Even as we plan for and anticipate a school year with lots of opportunities, we want to continue to be vigilant about the public health challenges that we must manage.
As a reminder, we have information and resources about both COVID-19 and monkeypox. Please review these sites regarding UK’s ongoing response to these issues:
I am excited for this start of the semester and all the promise that a new year offers.
Thank you for all you do to make so much possible for our students and all those we serve together.
Eli Capilouto President