As I reflect on my first semester and first six months at SIU Carbondale, words that characterize the university and its people come to mind.
From my first interactions with the campus community during the interview process, I found everyone to be authentic. They were welcoming, straightforward and true to who they were. This authenticity applies across the SIUC community and is reflected in the university and its mission. SIU strives to be true to what it is: a place that gives people of all backgrounds an opportunity to find success through hard work and with the support of a caring community.
Every day, I learn something remarkable about SIUC. Faculty and students who work around the clock to deliver needed COVID-19 supplies to the state. Donors who give generously to help students in need. Programs that have 100% pass or placement rates. Innovative research that addresses critical societal needs. Partnerships that contribute to the economic vitality of our region and state. We have amazing, remarkable stories to tell.
Passion, determination and resilience
As I meet with people on and off campus, they are always eager to respond to my core questions: What do you love about SIUC? What can we do better? Regardless of the answers, they are passionate in their responses. The people of SIUC care deeply about this university and its future. They want to see us succeed. The depth of universal passion for our university goes far beyond what you will find at many other institutions.
You often hear the phrase “grit and determination” associated with the university and its students, faculty, staff and alumni. I agree that we are determined. How else would we have grown our research funding, achieved continuing accreditation meeting all criteria, and increased our new student enrollment by 31%? When we put our minds and energy behind something as a community, it gets done.
SIUC is an institution that has faced challenges over its 150 years. Buildings have burned down. Budgets have been cut. Leadership has turned over. Then there was the pandemic. Yet we have made it past every roadblock because we are resilient. Perhaps this resilience is created by our authenticity, remarkable nature, passion and determination. Regardless, our resilience has ensured that we emerge from each challenge stronger as a community.
My reflections on my time here coincide with my reflections on the season. This is the time of year when we think about what we are grateful for. While each of us has our own way of celebrating and giving thanks, I hope you will join me in sharing appreciation for all members of the SIUC community. We have come through a year of unprecedented challenges because we have worked together. Thank you.
May you all have a safe, healthy and happy holiday.