The start of the academic year is always special, and this year will be even more memorable because it coincides with the solar eclipse. This once-in-a-lifetime event will be spectacular, as we are right in the path of totality. Hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps over a million, are expected to be coming to Missouri alone to witness the event.
So when the fall semester starts on Monday (more on the campus eclipse events below), we will witness a rare event. Some who have witnessed previous eclipses have said the experience was life altering. I would argue that we may not have an eclipse every year, but that we do experience an equally momentous event each and every start of the academic year.
Many of the students who will arrive Monday are first-time college students. Many are the first in their families to attend college. The first day of college is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it is likely to be life altering. Students will come to us in hopes of transferring on to a four-year institution. Their goal is a bachelor’s degree or beyond, and their work here will prepare them for that next step in their academic career. Others come with dreams of going to work, armed with an associate degree in a career or technical field. They will continue the long history of living here, going to college here, and going to work right in our community as nurses, machinists, EMTs, technicians, and more.
Still others come with only a commitment to make a better future, even if their specific plans have yet to be developed. But they have taken the hardest step.
Some have only been out of the classroom a few months since graduating from high school. Others have been away for years or decades. Some have only known academic success. Others have always struggled in the classroom.
All are coming full of hope and optimism, and likely a bit of fear and trepidation. We have an opportunity to meet them, challenge them, support them, and celebrate with them.
Nothing could be more important, especially now.
The events in this country and around the world have shown us in stark terms the importance of education, and the dangers of its absence.
We need, now more than ever, individuals with an understanding of history, appreciation for differing ideas, respect and civility, a commitment to embracing the diversity that makes us strong, and the courage to challenge those who would appeal to the worst among us with messages of hate, racism, bigotry, intolerance, and fear. We need leaders at every level who are committed to a better community, a better world.
That work can and must be done on our campus. We have a responsibility to prepare our students for the next step in their education and for their careers, but even more importantly to play a meaningful role in our community.
So we should meet our students with equal amounts of hope and optimism. We may have a little fear and trepidation about our ability to meet our obligations to teach and support these students, but we also know that this work is vitally important.
Life altering indeed.
The campus comes to life Monday morning. We’ll be ready and excited, because lives once again will be changed. The eclipse will come and go. But the work that begins Monday morning will last a lifetime.
Eclipse Notes—The college will be open Monday, August 21, for the start of the fall semester. There will be no classes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in order to allow faculty and staff to experience the eclipse. Traffic is expected to be heavy in our region. Parking lots for faculty and staff will be designated, with some of the outlying lots available for the general public. There will be food trucks on campus, eclipse glasses available while supplies last, and other activities. Many thanks to Linda Follis and Paul Lampe for coordinating this project. In Rolla, classes also will be cancelled between 11 and 2. Due to the unpredictability of traffic congestion, we will be monitoring the roads closely. As with instances of inclement weather, if circumstances necessitate any further changes to the schedule, we will notify students, faculty, and staff as soon as possible.