BY STANLEY E. HENDERSON, Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management and Student Life
I walk across campus at the beginning of each fall semester and listen to the voices of students when they respond to my greeting. I hear more than just a “Hello,” or a “Good morning, Vice Chancellor.”
It’s the tone of voice, the lilt, the edge, the tension, the enthusiasm, the shyness that speaks more than the words: “I’m new and can’t wait to get started.” “I’m new; will I find my way?” “It’s great to be back.” “Is this the year I’ll finally get things in gear?” “Do I really belong here?” “I’m graduating this year!”
There is never more hope, resolve, excitement, and nervous energy on campus than during the first days of a new fall semester, and I’m never more energized about wanting to help maintain the positives of these first days of September.
I’m convinced that the secret of keeping the momentum of the start of school is found in one word: ENGAGEMENT.
If all you intend to do is come to campus, become a parking lot stalker, go to class, and go home, you’ll never engage with UM-Dearborn—and you’ll soon lose the edge, the resolve you had in the first weeks of fall.
Engagement means participating, contributing, making a difference. Go to class and engage with your professor and the other students in the class. Ask questions, discuss, think, analyze, be interested, LEARN. Engage with other students on campus. Join a club (we have over 160—a higher organization to student ratio than Ann Arbor!), go to the CIViC to get involved in a service project, help out with the new on campus food bank, or take a leadership role. Greet people on the sidewalk, seek out people who are different than you and get to know them; don’t be solitary.
If you think about it, what I’m describing is a community, a place where everybody is a member and everyone has everyone else’s back. Wrap your mind around that concept of community and shape your actions here accordingly. Think about what it’s like to be in your community at home, your community of faith, your community of work.
There’s an interrelationship in those communities; you have to be engaged. Too many campuses function as institutions, impersonal places where things happen to you over which you often have little control. In our UM-Dearborn, community your engagement makes you an active participant in shaping your world. When we contribute to something, when we invest our energy and time in it, it has more meaning.
This really came home to me last week when I had the privilege of introducing the inaugural class of Edward J. Bagale Difference Maker Scholars to a group of campus and community contributors to the scholarship fund in honor of Vice Chancellor Bagale and his campus and community service.
The awards recognize five members of our UM-Dearborn student community for extraordinary service projects: Jennifer Drake will be helping students avoid the pitfalls of taking on too much credit card and loan debt with a personal finance class that will include a nationally known speaker and six weeks of video sessions.
Iffa Kazi is planning a summit for Community Engagement, Activism, and Inclusion that will include service and dialogue designed to make service a part of lives and not just a one-time-a-year thing. Donna Posont is creating “Birding by Ear” classes for visually impaired children to learn the sounds of Michigan birds and learn mobility and independence at the same time.
Benita Robinson will be teaching computer safety and etiquette to Detroit middle school students to help them use social media effectively, including how to recognize internet predators. Lance Slatton will bring nearly 40 health agencies, providers and services to campus this fall for a Health Care Resource and Support Expo to provide screenings, information, and support for all students.
After the ceremony I was struck by the reaction of folks who were not from UM-Dearborn. They were amazed by the depth and breadth of the projects and their potential impact. One person—from another university—said to me, “I’ve heard about what a special place UM-Dearborn is for years. Tonight I see it’s true. There is a spirit here that other places don’t have.” The Community of UM-Dearborn was most certainly on display.
Let me challenge each of you to engage in this great UM-Dearborn community. Put your own unique ability to work and make our community a part of who you are. Your contributions will, in turn, shape the community, and we will be a better place for your having been here. We’re counting on each of you to make a difference.
And remember, when you greet me on campus, I’ll be listening to your voice. I want to hear, “I’m engaged in our community,” behind the words. I hope you hear, “We’re all behind you,” in mine.
Vice Chancellor Henderson