Begin Again

For people who like beginnings and endings, the academic life is hard to beat. We even have ceremonies marking them.

After the relative quiet of summer, the high energy level, optimism and expectations of the fall semester provide a welcome kick off to the academic year. Even the cold snap contributes to putting me into high gear for the start of the fall semester. It’s goodbye to parking places and hello to Frisbees on the quad, course preparation, speakers, all-school blessings and picnics, performances, test anxiety. …

The beginning of the fall semester may be my very favorite time – unless, of course, you count May commencement. There’s always that feeling of a job accomplished. That’s one ending that’s hard to beat.

So, yes, I do like endings, especially seeing the graduating seniors leave for jobs or grad school. It’s not quite like the old CW song, “Thank God and Greyhound He’s Gone.” There have been good times, but it is important to move on to the next stage, and to ready ourselves for the next group of freshmen.

Summer, that interim, is good for that transition – the campus is quiet, energies are restored, loose ends are tied up and the fiscal year closes. We catch up on our paperwork. We reflect on the past year’s successes and failures. We resume scholarly projects. We prepare for fall classes.

Henry James had it right with “Summer afternoon - summer afternoon – the two most beautiful words in the English language.” But all that restoring and preparation requires a purpose – the incoming class of 2014.

Early this summer, I was walking across the quad with Josh Hengemuhle, Student Affairs, and discovered that there are others who relish both the beginnings and the endings. Josh gave me a bit of wisdom to add to my musings when he said, “I like the beginnings best, though, and the day when I don’t is the day I start looking for another job.” I walked on and thought about that as I tied those knots in last year and started planning for this year.

Yes, definitely, the fall beginning is my favorite. Good thing, too, or Josh would have me pounding the pavement of the job market!