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It has been a roller coaster ride this past week, which was also my last week before the start of classes. It started with a fantastic gathering of former football players of McDaniel College. Nearly 30 alumni football players returned to The Hill to meet with current players and to talk to them about planning for their futures. Nearly every member of the current squad was there and I did not see a phone come out of a pocket or bag for the two hour event. Some stayed afterwards for another half an hour. Here are some scenes from the event:

        

The next day we had the first faculty meeting of the academic year, in which I was awarded a book award for the publication of Modernism vs. Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-89, my Reacting to the Past game that came out in March. But we also heard from our college president that this year we will collectively need to make some hard choices when it comes to programs to continue to support - and not. That makes everyone a bit on edge, but it's a necessary step for the institution to keep thriving.

At the end of the week I traveled to Schreiner Universityto address their Convocation for new students. I had a great time there in the Texas Hill Country. Having read the first year book, The Which Way Tree, by Elizabeth Crook, I got a feel for the ways in which the landscape affected the founding of the towns in that area. The convocation itself was fun, with a championship ring given to the Basketball shooting team for their first place win at their conference - I got to hear their fight song and see their mascot: the mountain lion.

I talked a lot in my address about being curious, and today my week starts with a phone call with an official from the NCAA about possibly participating on a panel at their annual conference in January. If you had told me a few years ago that I would be doing this, I would have scoffed. But my curiosity has led me here, mentoring a football team and learning lots from it. I'm sure that this journey will continue to have many ups and downs, but I'm excited to see where all of this leads me.

Good luck to all who have started, or are starting, their academic year!

It's been a busy few weeks, getting ready for the fall term to begin, so I have been a bit lax in getting my regular Monday posts out. I'm "faking" it a bit today, in that I am linking to another story, rather than writing a full post, on an article about my mentoring of the football team that ran in The Chronicle of Higher Education this past week. Here is the story link.

This story hit three days before we held the first-ever McDaniel College Green Terror Football Alumni Networking Event. Our college's Office of Experience and Opportunity has been offering alumni networking events for departments for several years. One day, I thought, these programs are great - but what if we did this just for football players with all former football players coming back to talk about how football helped them, but also how the liberal arts education that they got here also helped them. I suggested the idea to the CEO. It was deemed a good idea. And last night, 140 or so current players met nearly 30 alumni of McDaniel College, who also played football.

And I think some magic happened.

Students who attended can better explain what happened than I could:

"Thank you for taking the time to put that idea together, you have no idea of the potential futures you could’ve shaped by bringing all these people together."

"I'd like to give a HUGE shout out to Gretchen McKay and the CEO Office for organizing the first ever McDaniel Football Alumni Networking social. We all appreciate the countless hours of hard work you put into our program!"

Here are some pictures from the event. I would do just about anything to help these students and to ensure their success. I expect a lot from each of them, but I hope they know I will give just as much back to them in return.

Aaron Slaughter addresses current players of the McDaniel College football team.
Current McDaniel football players listening - and asking questions - of alums of the team and college

 

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The first full week of August typically comes with the realization that summer is waning, syllabi must be written, and the school year will be here soon. That is where I find myself this muggy Monday morning as I write this.

Most years there is also excitement about the new year starting. I am always much more excited about the "new year" in August/September than in January. I guess this is because my entire life has been dictated by an academic calendar, both as a student in school for oh-so-many years and as a professor for over 20.

But this year I feel a lot of trepidation, nervousness, and even some anxiety. There have been a lot of structural changes at my institution. Higher Education is going through some very difficult times as an industry and needs to change in very fundamental ways (and, as an industry, really doesn't like to change very much). I find myself feeling like I am standing on shifting sands because of these tumultuous times. And I'm not even talking here about the political world in which we find ourselves.

While I am still working on some writing (and likely will be until my first class meets in person on August 28), I find myself more and more looking to reconnect with students. Doing so always helps to ground me. One texted me last night about changing his major, and could I help him figure out the best first class in that major to take. (That major is not in my department, by the way). Another asked to talk to me on the phone last week because he broke up with his girlfriend and had a new idea for a business venture and he wanted my opinion. The football team will report for camp this coming Saturday and a week from today I plan to see them on the practice field.

I hope that the return of the students will re-ground me in what is important in my life. While I do enjoy the luxury of the summer, even though I have been working hard every day on my writing projects, I do miss the students, who are very much the reason that I write, read, and ultimately, teach. Perhaps I will feel less anxious when the students arrive on campus, since they are the reason that we have a college at all.

For me, it truly is all about the students.

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