Monthly Column September 2019
Living my passion so students can find theirs
Not every passion we have will turn into a career - which is evident because my penchant for singing in the shower has never translated to a record deal. But if we work hard enough, and if we’re lucky enough, we get to seek out those passions and live them daily.
I often counsel people to find their passions, even if it’s not your career. Maybe it’s not an activity. Maybe it’s a place you feel especially connected to that makes you eager to wake up in the morning.
Some people would say the beach, Disney World or that nostalgic summer vacation cabin is their “happy place.”
But for me, it’s Dalton State.
I know school isn’t everyone’s happy place. But a college campus filled with students is mine. It’s one of the reasons I became a college president. Being at Dalton State fills me with joy, even on the most challenging days.
Summers are quieter on most college campuses but now we have a full house again, with approximately 5,000 students enthusiastic about meeting new people, reuniting with friends and professors and engaging in a wide array of activities. The hustle and bustle of energetic young people engaged in conversations, laughing on the quad during Week of Welcome activities, studying quietly in the library and personalizing their dorm rooms brings out a sense of nostalgia for the days when I was a young college student.
Our full campus also touches me as the heart of a mother who sees our students as adopted sons and daughters. I see the potential encapsulated in each and every student, and it is my privilege to witness the development of students into the productive people they become.
Dalton State provides me an avenue to fulfill my passion of helping others develop and grow. More than half of our students are first-generation college students, meaning they often need more help and more resources to help them transition to college life. I have an opportunity here to connect with students and to help them achieve their dreams and find their own passions. We are changing lives for generations to come.
I am mindful that Dalton State can be the avenue for students to launch their life journey. It’s something I take very seriously.
Whether they are new to college or returning for their senior year, every student needs a little advice and encouragement periodically. We all have times when we feel overwhelmed by our workload or the number of decisions we must make, decisions that can feel life-changing, career-making or breaking. Dalton State students are not unique in this respect; college is a time when all people need extra support.
At our opening fall campus assembly for all employees, I challenged each of us to look with fresh eyes, with the eyes of our students. I challenged Dalton State employees to consider the unintended barriers to success that may exist at Dalton State. For many, the lingo or jargon can send subliminal messages to our students that they are not a good fit for college because they don’t know, for example, who or what the bursar’s office is or why they would need to know. Coming from a high school where students are familiar with terminology such as guidance counselors, do our students understand that on a college campus we call these people academic advisors? And do they understand we also have personal counselors on campus to help students with challenges outside the classroom that may impact their ability to be successful college students?
Our job is not to hold our students’ hands but to walk beside them for their educational journey to ensure they stay on the right path. It’s not about lowering our standards but rather it’s about lifting our students up to meet our high expectations. This is what makes Dalton State not just a good institution but a great one.
Dalton State exists to be a place that expects great things of our students and to provide the needed opportunities for students from Northwest Georgia and beyond. We believe Dalton State is special.
We remove barriers to success, help our students overcome obstacles that exist in every person’s life journey and develop our students to become the contributing members of our community we need them to be.
So maybe I won’t ever get a record deal, but helping students succeed is so much better. I get to live out my passion daily. I cannot imagine anything better than coming to Dalton State to help students develop and grow.