ADAMS: Welcome back to campus for fall instruction

By Vic Adams
Southeast President

We’re off to the races! Our regular fall semester has begun, and Southeast faculty and staff are ready to deliver a full spectrum of classes and services in a variety of formats. Just as every other institution of higher education in the country, we begin the 2020-21 academic year navigating our “new normal” while staying safe and healthy in the midst of a global pandemic. Since March, the health crisis has, indeed, tested our resilience and creativity.

And our patience.

This year marks my 26th at Southeast and my fourth as president. The culture I set out to create from the beginning of my presidency was one that focused on students. Our services, our marketing, our schedule, and our tone are all student-centered. One of the first changes I made was to slow the pace of our commencement exercises.

All too often colleges and universities have a graduation that moves so quickly, it puts me in mind of a cattle call. By the time you hear one graduate’s name, another graduate is stepping down, another is shaking the president’s hand, and three more have climbed the stairs. It’s not clear who is who.

That’s why I made it a point to allow each graduate to have the stage, to pause and own that moment. These folks have earned a credential, many of them overcoming tremendous obstacles, and they have earned the opportunity to shine.

Another change I made was eliminating the traditional commencement speaker. Instead, our team creates a documentary-style video featuring current and past graduates. In this way, our students, our most important resource, are given a voice.

Unfortunately, the current health crisis prevented us from having a traditional graduation this year. I suspect that the only person more disappointed than our graduates and their families and friends was . . . . yours truly. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love graduation. Through the use of technology, we were able to post student profiles on social media, but this “virtual graduation” fell far short of the celebration we have come to expect. Our students deserve better.

That is why I am so glad that just recently we called on our students and graduates to send in short videos telling how Southeast has made a difference in their lives. [Click here to check them out:]

We have heard from former coal miners who were laid off and who reinvented themselves, as well as health care professionals, educators, and judges who got their start at Southeast. We have heard from single mothers who were able to get their education while staying close to their family support system. The stories are as varied as our students themselves. Most importantly they have the stage. They are owning the moment. They are using their voice.

I hope these short masterpieces inspire all those who see them. I hope they empower those who made them. I hope they make more people want to build better lives . . . because at the end of the day, whether in the midst of a shutdown or business as usual, that’s what we’re all here for.

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