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Aaaaand We’re Off!

September 1, 2016 Mark McCarthy John Carroll University

Three hundred, twenty nine thousand, seven hundred sixty minutes and counting.  That is the number of minutes from the first day of classes in August until the last day of finals in May at John Carroll University this year. As the first year students move onto campus today, I can’t help but to wonder how we and our students can make the most of every one of these minutes?  What challenges and opportunities will we and they have during each of the days and weeks ahead?

As we start another academic year here, I can’t help but be excited about the sense of renewal each new semester brings – the moments captured forever in our memories or in today’s world of selfies!  What an amazing privilege it is to welcome the newest members of our community to campus and welcome back returning students to the next stage of their academic careers.

During the weeks leading up to the start of classes,  I am called upon to share a few words of advice and encouragement to many groups – the staff in the division of student affairs, the first year students at convocation and various student staffs including RAs and orientation leaders, among others.  Over the years, I have kept a list of “lessons learned” through my work with college students, their parents and colleagues on the staff and faculty.  I have found that reviewing and reflecting on these lessons from time to time reminds me of the importance of the work we do each day on behalf, with and for the students we serve. 

Here’s my “Top Ten” list:

  1. Give people a chance – think well of others – they often surprise you!  When others are complaining or frustrated by your actions, think about how you can give them the “best possible interpretation”.  Practice putting a good and fair interpretation on the actions of others. 
  2. Be prepared – do your homework – before making assumptions.  What are the facts we know to back up our assumptions?  Read everything you can and keep current on the news on campus and in the world.
  3. Be approachable – say “hi” to people and keep your door and heart open.  Laugh often and find the humor in situations – even the most onerous ones.  Hospitality matters.
  4. Invite others into conversations, encourage genuine collaboration, and share information. Promote dialogue rather than isolation, separation, or division.
  5. Recognize that your limitations are also your gifts – they remind us that we are human. We can’t do it all ourselves and no one should expect you to do so.
  6. Respect students, lead with trust, laugh with them, not at them and engage them in their own development. Care for them as whole people. Be aware of and value the religious, gender, sexual orientation, cultural, and racial diversity in the campus community and help others to do the same.
  7. Be passionate about what you do – if you are, you will find that your leadership will be life-giving and your work will be of great service to others. 
  8. Details are important – planning ahead is critical to your success. Work hard to be on time for class, for meetings, etc. 
  9. At the end of the day or even at moments throughout the day, take time to reflect on your experiences – what went well, what or who surprised you, when were you at your best, your worst.
  10. Most of all – recognize the importance of gratitude in your work and life – Gratitude enables us to reach beyond ourselves and focus on the needs of others.  In essence thank people often.

These are some of the lessons I have learned and try to practice. I hope they give you some insight into what matters in your work and life and perhaps some tokens of wisdom as get you through the busy and challenging minutes and hours we will inevitably face in the year ahead.