Shepherding Change, Shaping Growth

This past August, I had the honor of being the carpool driver for my oldest son and two of his friends on their first day of high school. My wife was pleased. She reasoned it would be hazardous for her to drive while weeping uncontrollably. 

It seems every stage of my children’s growth and development is bittersweet. First steps. First word. First time riding a bike. First day of kindergarten. As a parent I applaud their independence or newly learned skill, but as a daddy I mourn the loss of their innocence or dependence on my help. And I remember vividly every moment in which I said goodbye and hello simultaneously.  

As humans, it seems we are continually welcoming change and yet feeling apprehensive about where it may take us. Over the summer I began my own transition to my new role as vice president for enrollment management and communications. I was, and continue to be, excited about the opportunities and future at St. Norbert College. What an amazing time to be part of this campus ­– a place with unparalleled momentum in high-quality enrollment; incredible faculty; new and expanded programming to enhance the student experience; new buildings, new playing fields and new classrooms with the latest available technology. 

It’s amazing to me that during the entire time since I first set foot on this campus in 2009, bulldozers, cranes and men in hard hats have been regular features on our campus tour for prospective students. The physical transformation has been absolutely incredible to watch. 

But with all these transitions come additional questions. How do we maintain and honor our traditions amidst all this change? How do we continue this momentum? What’s next?

In my own life, I trust that God has his guiding and protecting hand in the lives of my children, knowing that his love and concern for each of them is immense. Similarly, since 1898, the St. Norbert community has entrusted our campus to the guiding hand of the Norbertine order. Their love for our college drives all decisions, challenging us to new initiatives and programs while honoring and embracing our past. And, although we administrators lack omniscient knowledge, the college is in good hands indeed. Every decision we make, we make for the benefit of our current students and our alumni. We know that parents have trusted us to educate, encourage, challenge and motivate their precious children as they grow into adults – adults who, like our alums, will lead business, spearhead research, inspire with performance, teach children. 

Every August, the new intake of students arrives on campus, vehicles stuffed with belongings. They are quickly surrounded by Kunkel’s Krew – members of our campus community who are ready to ease the newcomers’ burdens (quite literally) as we help move the students into the residence halls. What a great symbol of what St. Norbert is all about! 

College is a major transition for parents and students; it brings with it great excitement and many more questions. But the St. Norbert faculty and staff are committed to walking alongside students as they journey through the next four years. We greet them and help them move into the halls. We cheer for them as they process into their first academic convocation. We pray with them and for them at Common Prayer. We guide them in their studies. We celebrate with them four years later when they walk across the stage at Commencement. 

Their success is our success and their presence on our campus has been a present to us. For as much as we hope to give to our students, we know they have given us a great gift, as they in their turn challenge and encourage us. The best reward they give us is a glimpse into their next transition – their future – as they move forward to change the world. 

Nov. 13, 2013