This presidential column originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2018 issue of The Bulletin.
IT IS A PLEASURE and privilege to write to you as the president of our alma mater, in spring, when the maples become leafy once again. I have felt abundant joy as I have re-acquainted myself with the college, learning to know the students, faculty, staff and alumni, and seeing the many manifestations of your lives, leadership and service in the world.
Undoubtedly, these are turbulent times for higher education, Mennonite Church USA, our society and our planet. Goshen College is affected by all of these currents, creating tensions and openings. The challenge and opportunity of the moment were part of what drew me back to Goshen College at this time. I am honored and glad to return to Goshen College because I am optimistic about its future and want to be a part of creating it.
Since I began on November 1, we have already gotten started on a few new things. One is creating a Faculty Renewal Fund to offer seed grants to faculty teams or individuals to renew their scholarship and teaching. These funds, provided through gifts and in addition to our operating budget, recognize that our mission particularly depends on the quality and commitment of its teaching faculty.
We are also working to strengthen our campus community toward greater inclusivity and engagement, with a particular emphasis on student leadership. I have convened a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce that is bringing together students, staff and faculty to take stock of our culture and actions, and to recommend what new resources and programs are needed. And fortuitously, a newly formed student club, called the Intercultural Coalition of Goshen College, is bringing together members of the Black Student Union, International Student Club and Latino Student Union under one umbrella. They are challenging and leading us to — in their words — “address ongoing student concerns pertaining to diversity and race on campus, and ways to create a community with more understanding and love for one another.”
As I envision the future we create together, I want Goshen College to continue to provide a “distinctively Goshen” liberal arts education, rooted in the way of Jesus. An education that liberates students to explore ideas, the world, relationships and their own souls; to express themselves through writing, discovery, action and the arts; and to compose a life in a beloved community doing meaningful and joyful work.
The hard work is coming more clearly into focus for me. And there is not a place that I would rather be right now than here, where the leafy maple grows.