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In My Words/Taking Joy in the Journey

The past months have found me at three separate programs designed specifically for new college or university presidents. At each, seasoned leaders generously shared their sometimes-hard-won wisdom and advice – all designed to help rookies like me get off to a good start. Among their recurring themes is one I’ve been attempting to take to heart (literally): that wellness and balance should never be an after-thought. Indeed, I’ve been working to “run” with this advice by adopting a healthier diet, adding a little “play” to each week and moving daily (more than from desk to dinner, I mean). 

Because my mentors told me to, a few Sundays ago I made the spontaneous decision at precisely 8:04 p.m. to power-down the laptop, toss essential gear into the back of my car, and head out to do a little moonlit ice fishing. It’s the most glorious kind! My eye was naturally drawn to the ice houses dotting the gorgeous spread of ice below the De Pere dam. That was all it took for my winter-loving, fishing-obsessed self.

By 8:22 p.m., I’m standing on the shore of the Fox River. A mid-sized village of anglers are collectively navigating the evening bite. I spy a shallow ledge, just a short distance from the deeper and stronger current of the main channel. My strategy? To locate a few active walleye that have perhaps moved up to find baitfish in the shallows. Within minutes, I’m over a previously cut hole, dropping the transducer of my depth-finder into the frigid water. I spot numerous nice-sized fish near the bottom. Walleye?!

In a rush of perhaps premature optimism, I put my trusty (albeit rusty) manual auger to work to make a second hole. After many hard-won cranks, a lifted heartrate and slightly tightening back muscles, the blades successfully break through 18 inches of ice. And there I am: sitting on an overturned bucket, depth-finder humming, jigging my favorite artificial bait and seeking just one hungry walleye. Delight cascades over me. Above me a most glorious, luminescent full moon comes into view. Fiat lux! Let there be light! 

If there’s a Latin phrase for “Let there be fish,” I could have used it. The walleye were not hungry that night. 

But that’s okay – for we all know the real joy is in the journey. Which brings my thoughts back to our collective journey through the academic year – a year that, to my disbelief, is well past its halfway point. These are exciting times for a college with our history of academic excellence! I’m particularly delighted to share that Paul Johnson, associate dean of humanities, is working with an innovative group of faculty to develop an inspiring new program – an integrated studies major to be launched next fall. This contemporary expression of our liberal arts tradition is designed to enrich multiple learning outcomes – among those, critical thinking and analytical skills. 

And here’s one fine example of those skills, already in play: Our brilliant students partnered with economist Marc Schaffer, as they do every February, to share in-depth and regionally valued insights at our annual State of the Economy presentation. (Marc holds our Dale & Ruth Michels Endowed Chair.) 

Then, you’ll read in this very issue news of a significant new book by our political scientist Angel Saavedra Cisneros on Latino identity and political attitudes. I hope you enjoy, too, the compelling article about Lucy Arendt of our business faculty, and her valuable work on decision-making in times of disaster. 

And Tom Conner, professor of French, is to be knighted – knighted! – by the French government for his work for their country’s language and culture. 

Which brings me to our own Knighthood, if you’ll pardon the dreadful pun. St. Norbert College received five of the eight Midwest Conference Elite20 Awards for fall sports – an outstanding honor revealing yet again the strength of both our superb athletic and rigorous academic programs. 

We’re also proud to introduce our Summer Academy of Medicine – a program born of our partnership with the Medical College of Wisconsin. The four-day camp is designed for high schoolers who have expressed an interest in exploring the field of medicine. 

Indeed, there are seemingly countless ways our faculty and staff are continuing to offer exceptional educational experiences. Thankfully, our successes at the college are abundant – quite unlike my pursuit of the elusive walleye.

March 20, 2018