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School’s In

23 Aug Posted by in Academics, Business | Comments Off on School’s In
School’s In

Advance notice: this is not a particularly profound piece. A few commentators have recently noted recurrent bursts of substance in my blog, which is kind of them; but I need a pass on this one.

For this is simply a few musings about the beginning of fall semester. I’ve been in this racket a long time, and for many years I’ve told myself that one way to gauge my commitment is whether I get at least a bit excited when the students are set to roll in. This year, again, the answer is yes. I have a larger than usual class to teach this fall, which makes me a bit nervous, but I’m really eager to meet the students and get started.

In my present job, it’s also a real high to meet new faculty. We have our main orientation next week, and I look forward to talking about the university, taking questions, and at least beginning the process of advancing their knowledge about Mason. The same holds true for our now traditional convocation for new students, also next week. I’ve been kicking around what I should say to them in my two minutes, knowing that they won’t remember a thing, and I’ve come up with a new twist that I’m looking forward to.

The imminence of the new semester has been enhanced by various bits of good news. We’ve received significant new support for some global initiatives (around the study of Islam and also for one of our key Russian collaborations). We have one of our largest-ever grants, to support improving K-12 science teaching. And it’s clear as well that our student retention rates continue to increase, which is a crude but welcome measure of effectiveness.

There’s always a bit of dross, to be sure. The beginning-of-term rituals involve getting US News and World Report rankings, which so substantially assess university wealth. They require recognition that students are looking extremely young (a colleague once noted that you know you’re getting old when the students’ parents are looking good).

But the balance is exuberantly positive. It should be an exciting year. It’s fun to get started.