May 05, 2010
"In April, we cannot see sunflowers in France, so we might say the sunflowers do not exist. But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds, and when they look at the bare hills, they may be able to see the sunflowers already. The sunflowers are there. They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain and July. Just because we cannot see them does not mean that they do not exist."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
A few evenings ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to listen to graduating seniors talk about what they valued in their educational and social experiences at Cheyney University.
Yes, the seniors almost always mentioned the caring and knowledgeable faculty and coaches who took time with them and cared about them as individuals. Without a doubt, the graduating seniors felt both challenged by the faculty and reassured by them that, with hard work and perseverance, they could “be anything they wanted to be.”
In addition to the faculty, graduating seniors held in high esteem their relationships with their peers and the development of deep and enduring friendships. Sometimes—as they recounted specific details of these friendships—they had to stop to wipe the tears from their eyes. These friendships were bonds which helped them through college and life. There were so many stories of how students supported each other and how that support helped each of them to develop as individuals and as adult members of our society.
Some seniors surprised us and declared that they had not intended to stay at Cheyney University. These students had plans to move on to some place more prestigious. After a year or so, they had planned to transfer to UPenn, Penn State, or even the University of Pittsburgh. However, something happened, and the students began to appreciate the legacy of Cheyney University, reap profound benefits they had not expected, and they began to love the University.
When I was young, I often heard that “April showers bring May flowers.” Of course, I eventually understood that those darker, rainy days when you had to step over puddles, and days when you were actually caught unprepared in a cloudburst, those days actually led to beautiful spring flowers, a new season of fresh fragrances, and expectations of new beginnings. After a lifetime in higher education, this is how I view Commencement each year—fresh flowers and new beginnings.
The transformation that occurs from freshman to senior years is hard to overlook with most students. At freshman orientation, they sit with their parents or guardians, and for the most part, they seem hesitant, docile, and almost afraid to be themselves–at least until the parents go home. Then the fun begins as the incoming students try to discover who they are and to explore who they might become. This fun takes many forms including traveling, studying the cultures of others, and gradually learning how to impose more self-discipline.
Thus, the first couple of years at Cheyney University, and on many college campuses, can be viewed as transition years, and probably many students feel that they experience rains because of the general anxiety and conflict involved in leaving adolescence to assume adult responsibilities. Others experience stress because they are not sure that their pre-college work has really prepared them for college or where college should lead them.
At Cheyney University, we recognize how vulnerable students are during these years, so we are exploring the feasibility of constructing a University College to structure our academic and social support activities more appropriately to help reduce the stresses of students’ experiences. We will also encourage all incoming students to participate in the choir, the Cheyney University Band, clubs, athletics, and academic organizations, or any other appropriate organization sponsored by faculty or staff to better support them, as they make their transitions into adulthood.
Sometimes as students become more aware of civil, political, and environmental inequities and agendas in their world, it is usually, the faculty, coaches, alumni, staff, and extended Cheyney University community members who see the budding sense of social responsibility. They listen to these students and gently ask them, “So what are you going to do about it?”
By senior year, or by the time these students have acquired enough credits to earn graduate degrees, the careful observer can see the flowers begin to emerge and the development of earnest dedication. As students relate their plans to study for the LSAT/GRE, to move forth to graduate study, or to join a company in which they may have had an internship, we can see that they are beginning to form answers to the question, “So what are you going to do about it?”
At Cheyney University, while we will celebrate the completion of academic requirements with a suitable array of Commencement activities this week—we are really acknowledging that another group of students have demonstrated academic growth, and they are moving forth on their journeys to become responsible and contributing global citizens.
It is this cycle of growth and transformation that enriches us and energizes us to begin again to cultivate more amazing and varied flowers!
April showers do indeed bring May flowers!
P R E V I O U S P O S T S
- President's Blog - April 2013 - CU Transforming to Produce A Quality Education for the 21st Century
- President's Blog - March 2013 - Our Daughters and The Broadening of The Talented Tenth
- President's Blog--January 2013--Our Collective Action is Required
- President's Blog - February 2013 - Helping Others Reach Their Potential
- Thoughts for a Really New Year
- HBCUs – A Village of Choice for Some
- Cheyney University – 175 Years of Access, Opportunity, and Excellence
- A Fork in the Road ...
- The Unleveled Playing Field
- 100 Black Men: Fathers and Husbands Working for A Better Tomorrow
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