Dr. Victor H. Matthews, “Welcoming Words for SOAR Students and Families”
I know that you have had a long day of meetings and presentations, mostly from Student Services, Financial Aid, and Housing. It is now my turn to welcome you to MSU from the faculty, many of whom have joined us this evening. We are here to let you know that our primary aim is to provide students with the best possible education and to help them succeed. Because that is why you have come to MSU – to study and to prepare yourself for the next phase of your life.
While you are here you will constantly be making choices, and that includes your decision tomorrow on your course schedule for your fall semester. Depending on your current major there will be some courses that you need to take, but most courses will be in the General Education program. Rather than being a barrier to “getting to your major,” they provide foundational information for many academic areas, and they also give you a chance to participate in the discernment process that will ultimately determine what you major will be when you graduate.
What I am going to ask you to do is make yourself vulnerable and open to new challenges. Take a chance by signing up for a course in Gen Ed that you did not have in high school. That may well expand your thinking and you may discover that your passion is being drawn to an area you never considered. After all, most students do change their major two or three times during their years as an undergrad. Make sure that when you are done that you are studying what you really find interesting and empowering. Do not end up with a major and a career that you hate. Do not spend 30 years working in a job that you cannot stand.
I have been teaching in a university setting for 44 years, and you might ask me why I am still doing it. The answer comes when one of the parents at these dinners comes up to me and reminds me that they were my student 20 or 30 years ago and they can still remember me and what I taught them in my Introduction to Old Testament class. That means I made a difference in someone’s life, and it re-energizes me. That is the feeling I want all of you to have.
Making choices is what is all about. You make simple choices everyday like when to get up, what to eat for lunch, or who to talk to on the phone. But more importantly, you will be making life choices from now on that will determine your future. So, how does that relate to your time at MSU? Frankly, it comes down to the priorities that you set for yourself.
If you choose to spend most of your time in the game room or the recreation center rather than preparing for classes, you have made a choice that may well lead to academic suspension and the waste of your tuition dollars. The point is that there is a finite amount of time each day and we all choose to use that time in particular ways. I encourage you to make good choices and will lead to academic success and a more fulfilling life. As the knight says in the Indiana Jones movie, “Choose wisely!”
Of course, I am not going to tell you to do nothing but study all the time. I want you to balance fun with study, interacting with other students and spending quiet time, and participating in campus organizations and events that also include educational opportunities. The university is a smorgasbord offering many positive ways to use your time and energy, but I realize you are away from home for the first time – making decisions on your own and learning to be your own person.
Find ways while you are here to discover who you are and who you want to become. That may be scary at times, and you may find yourself getting homesick or making dangerous or damaging choices. If you find yourself spiraling out of control, seek the help you need from your teachers, your advisor, or through the professionals at Magers Health Center.
One final caution – you will be faced in the coming year with new ideas, new people, and new situations that you may find difficult. It is the job of the university to get you to ask questions and to push the envelope rather than simply accepting everything you see or hear as true. In the process, however, you may become sad, or angry, or confused. One way of coping with that is to just keep asking questions and to talk things over with your friends and your teachers.
Another mechanism when you need to escape conflicting thoughts or difficult people or temporary failures (yes – you like everyone else will have your failures) is to adopt the philosophy espoused by Ted Lasso in his television role as a coach. He says, “You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. It’s got a 10 second memory.” Sometimes you need to be the goldfish and forget what has happened so you can go on to the next great adventure.
Come back to us in August ready to have fun and study hard. And do not be afraid to ask for help. We are all here to help.