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New Year, New Opportunities

Ayres Hall in the snowHappy New Year! I hope you had a relaxing winter break and enjoyed time with family, friends, and your community.

For many of us, the New Year means setting resolutions such as getting healthy, reading more, eating less sugar, traveling more, etc. My personal goal is to get enough sleep every day, something I recommend we all do to sustain our energy and enthusiasm for all aspects of life. As a college, we continue to work on several important goals this year. At the top of my list are supporting opportunities for inclusive conversations within and about our community; developing infrastructure that will allow faculty in our departments to develop master’s and other distance education opportunities; and finding the resources needed to accommodate the growth in student numbers and changing research programs of faculty.

The New Year also provides an opportunity to reflect on what we leave behind. Last month, while most of us were celebrating our students’ successes and preparing to leave for the holidays, our campus community experienced a racist act that reflected ignorance and bigotry. My response, which I shared with you all, condemned the message of division and implied intolerance painted on the Rock. While I strongly support freedom of speech and expression, inflammatory messages with no means of response are unacceptable. It is more important than ever to promote civil discourse and compassion for people of all backgrounds and to be able to communicate those values to the world. The liberal arts education our students receive should equip them for this task.

A liberal arts education also provides our students with skills that almost every employer values – communication, critical thinking, and willingness to embrace diversity. We are all aware of the emphasis our society puts on obtaining a professional degree. While these are important, we also need people trained to understand the human, cultural, and social aspects of our world. As we move into a more technologically driven world, the human component is still vitally important. A liberal arts education prepares students to collaborate with their professional counterparts or gain additional professional education to tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges within their human context.

Let’s take the opportunity of a new year to communicate the value of the liberal arts to our community. These include how to engage in civil discourse; how to understand and embrace diversity; and how to think critically about complex relationships in our society. Let’s use our intellectual energy to communicate these values to our students and our communities and demonstrate the impact a liberal arts education can have on the world.

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.