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Monthly Column March 2020

Roadrunners are Busy Bees with a Purpose

Please note, this column was written ahead of time, before we suspended face-to-face classes due to the threat of the Coronavirus. Our number one priority at Dalton State is the health and safety of our Roadrunner family. For the most recent information on the impact of the virus on Dalton State, please click on the “Coronavirus Update” button at daltonstate.edu.

I am proud to work at a campus where students actively seek out opportunities to give to others. As I write this, a dozen students are spending their spring break volunteering in New Orleans.

Working with an organization that was created after Hurricane Katrina to help with the recovery efforts of that area, these students are participating in a variety of activities such as food and backpack meal distributions at a community center and housing rehabilitations.

Our Student Government Association and other student leaders recently helped us host a breakfast and speak with state legislators and other government officials at Dalton State Day at the capitol. We wanted to take time to ensure legislators and government officials understand the value Dalton State brings to Northwest Georgia and our entire state.

I could list dozens of other examples of students involved in activities outside their academic course requirements from this semester alone. Roadrunners are involved. It’s important for students to experience life outside the classroom.

Dalton State is known for its rigorous and relevant academic programs that prepare students for employment in our community or for other post-graduation goals, such as graduate school and military service. But a college education is about more than a transcript of courses and grades. 

As students participate in extracurricular activities, they learn important lessons that mature them as leaders and adults and prepare them to become better parents, spouses, employees and engaged citizens in our community. Students gain competencies in areas such as time management, leadership, responsibility, teamwork, collaboration, negotiation, budgeting, fiscal responsibility and communication, for example, all valuable to them as they enter the workforce and transition into that “real world” we often talk about.

Similarly, our students who participate in internships and practicums learn first-hand how to apply their course content in their career fields. They learn how to dress, how to interact with peers and supervisors and how to manage conflict and unexpected scenarios - such as a flu/virus epidemic. There is no better preparation for life than life experience. I believe these extracurricular activities give our students these life experiences we need them to have.

But you might ask why people should engage in these activities as part of their college experience. Couldn’t these students get this volunteer and work experience without enrolling in college? In many cases, the answer is yes. But the difference is we structure these experiences to increase the likelihood students learn from these activities.

I am reminded of a quote attributed to Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Some people say they have 20 years of experience when in reality they have one year of experience repeated 20 times.” Students participating in an internship or practicum placement in a clinical or educational setting are required to reflect on their experiences and are given formal feedback from their supervisors on their effectiveness. Students who engage in service learning and other volunteer opportunities are also provided with opportunities to debrief. In other words, there is intentional effort to ensure these are learning experiences and our students are not simply providing free or reduced cost labor.

We believe these intentional and reflective activities both inside and outside the classroom are what make our students sought after for employment by local and national employers. I believe this is why many of our students seem wise and mature beyond their years. They have had rich collegiate experiences that prepare them for life beyond the college classroom. I am proud Dalton State plays an integral role in their life journeys.