Monday, August 23, 2010

Fall frenzy

The new semester is officially underway today! For many of us, that means leaving behind a productive summer of writing and research, or it marks the end of a hectic summer semester of teaching, or perhaps the last languid days of time away from campus duties entirely. This time of year always feels full of promise and potential to me, despite the frenzied pace of activities. Seeing the new influx of fresh-out-of-high-school students can be especially exciting. I enjoy watching their acclimation to the university culture and to their coursework as they explore personal freedoms and new academic ground. The frenzy of the fall term is one of bustling excitement and new possibilities for faculty members as well. If we but take a moment to absorb the energy around us then we can begin the semester as eagerly as those new college students.

During our registration duty last week, however, it seemed many faculty members at my institution and others bring little energy to the new term. In fact, several people reminded me of the Winnie the Pooh character, Eeyore. There was no energy, no zest, and when faced with a few items of news responded that it wouldn't be long before some type of doom came upon our heads or noted that a book they ordered had not come in and a machine was on the fritz. It is true: Higher education these days in most states is suffering from crises of morale as we trudge through the fiscal cuts. While these issues can be frustrating, and I do have my share this term, I disliked seeing such feelings overshadow the zest of a new term. The start of a semester is one of my favorite times and I am eager to meet the students, to explore the personalities of my various classes, and to see what might emerge in the next 16 weeks.

Despite the extremely dire economic forecasts in higher education, I am focusing on the positives, feeding off of the energy and eager for the new term to begin. As when I was younger, I awoke today thinking "First day of school!" and will carry with me reminders that while it may be just another semester to me it might also be a student's first taste of college life and his or her first interaction with my institution. So, bring on the new students, the emails, the questions, and yes, even the apathy. I've decided that I will bring enough positive energy into this semester to tackle it all!