At this turn of the year, Bridget Burke Ravizza (Religious Studies) takes an opportunity to look back at blessings received and forward to a bright future. With her, we send our warmest wish that 2012 will, indeed, be a Happy New Year for you and for all in the worldwide community of St. Norbert.
The holidays provide a rare opportunity to escape from day-to-day busyness, gather with friends and family, share good food and drink, and celebrate our blessings – especially the gift of one another. If your family is anything like mine, this is a season of rituals: lighting candles, decorating trees, exchanging cards and gifts, putting the baby Jesus in the crèche, counting down and giving kisses. The New Year prompts us to look back over the year, to think about what we have done well – what we should be grateful for – and also to look forward, to think about ways we can do and be better (as individuals, families, and communities).
As a college community this year, we at St. Norbert have been in an exciting process of both looking back and looking forward in two specific endeavors: the accreditation process through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA); and the faculty process of creating and approving a new general education program – the program that functions as the core of our curriculum.
At the end of October, four consultant-evaluators representing the NCA visited St. Norbert College. The visit was the culmination of an extended, college-wide process of self-evaluation, during which – with the help of assessment data – we attempted to discover what we are doing well and also how we might improve. The final goal of this effort was not only accreditation, which affirms that the college meets certain high standards as an educational institution, but also excellence. Obviously, the latter goal is an ongoing one. Here is news that can make us all feel proud: The NCA visit resulted in a very positive initial evaluation. The final report (still in progress) will help St. Norbert move forward and address challenges as we seek to better serve our students and strive toward excellence.
And this fall, the faculty successfully approved a re-envisioned core curriculum that will replace our current general education program, beginning in the 2013-14 academic year. For years (and I mean, years!), we have discussed the strengths and weaknesses of our current program, researched best practices at other institutions, and vigorously debated what kind of curriculum will best prepare our students to be informed, ethical and engaged citizens in the 21st century. We are now moving forward with a dynamic core curriculum that will be the foundation of a liberal arts education at St. Norbert for the foreseeable future. Indeed, it is an invigorating time to be a faculty member at St. Norbert, to be a small part of the rich community (of faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends of the college) whose vision and dedication make this place thrive and provide its forward momentum.
To be sure, looking back and looking forward is both a communal and individual process. For Christians, it ought to be a prayerful endeavor. Looking back in gratitude, we thank God for good gifts given, and for opportunities to use our talents and resources well. Looking forward in hope, we resolve to become ever more loving, ever more attuned to the needs of others, ever more committed to God’s ways in the world.
May God bless St. Norbert College, and each and every one of you, in the New Year!
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Jan. 3, 2012