A new academic year kicked off officially on Wednesday with the traditional Opening Convocation to celebrate the first day of classes for the fall semester. Following the singing of University Hymn “Jesus Is the Christ” and the Alma Mater, along with an opening prayer by Vice President for Spiritual Direction Dr. Todd Lake, Provost Dr. Thomas Burns welcomed the gathered crowd, calling attention to several items that illustrate this year’s campus theme, “Through the Eyes of Others.”
In addition to Belmont’s commitment to KIVA and the recent partnership with Live Beyond, Burns pointed to the upcoming Oct. 3 First Year Seminar (FYS) convocation with Christian missionaries Keren Madora and Kristine Diggins. Kristine is the daughter of Keren Madora and Dan Everett, the author of FYS common book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes.
“I challenge you,” Burns remarked, “as you participate in these activities, to make new connections – between people, between ideas, between actions – and to find the courage to make a difference in our world. I invite you to struggle with questions which have no easy answers. May we welcome those struggles, embrace them and let them transform the way we view and live in our world. Not every University will dare ask this much of its membership, but that’s why all of us have chosen to be part of Belmont University.”
Students Chase Geiser, SGA president, and Keayana Robinson, BSA president, each read Scripture, and then Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher offered his “State of the University” address. He began his talk by reflecting back on the goals established four years ago for Vision 2015, noting that since then, “We’ve accomplished some really extraordinary things together.” Among the highlights were examples of transformational learning as seen in the Enactus 2012 World Cup win and the increasing number of students studying abroad. He also pointed out how Belmont continues to grow in its Christian character, providing a multitude of diverse opportunities for students to develop in their faith journey and serve the community.
Numbers also helped tell the story of Belmont’s path to completing Vision 2015 as positive increases have occurred in enrollment, rankings, diversity and employee compensation. Of course, the most visible changes of the past several years are results of construction, as Fisher displayed images of all the new facilities that have opened or been remodeled since 2009.
Reflecting on recent history provided an appropriate launch pad for the crux of Fisher’s message: Vision 2020. Unveiling a timeline that forecasts for the developed 2020 plans to be announced at the 2014 Opening Convocation, Fisher told the Belmont community that he hoped everyone would be involved and offer their input on the University’s future. Quoting lyrics from Five for Fighting’s song “World,” he said, “What kind of world do you want?…Be careful what you wish for. History starts now.”
Fisher emphasized that at the heart of any institutional planning is “what we believe about students,” a concept that is threaded throughout the University mission. “The good news is that you already have everything you need to make an impact in this world. The bad news… or really the challenging news, to borrow from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, is that you just have to apply 10,000-15,0000 hours to develop and hone those skills and talents. That’s why we’re here to help along the way.”
Interspersed in the presentation were humorous videos from “crack consulting team” the Muppets and inspiring messages from Faculty Senate President Dr. Annette Sisson, University Staff Advisory Chair Juanita Cousins and SGA President Chase Geiser reflecting on their dreams for Vision 2020.