Student Awards Convocation, Spring 2007

Friday, May 4, 2007

Thank you President Delaney. I too wish to extend my congratulations to the student award winners assembled here today.

I would like to take just one moment to acknowledge the tragic event of three weeks ago on the Virginia Tech campus. Even on a joyful day like today, we are still mindful of the students who lost their lives on April 16. On the UNF campus, we held vigils and memorial services; and perhaps most importantly, we reaffirmed what it means to be an institution of higher learning even in the most vertiginous of moments. Higher education thrives on openness, a precious and fragile quality that must be nurtured and preserved, and that would surely be lost if we were to seal off our campuses from spontaneity, discourse, and candor.

As deeply tragic as the loss of life was earlier this month, it would be more tragic still if those of us on college and university campuses did not regard the massacre as something that demands comprehension rather than as an event from which we permit ourselves merely to recoil in shock and in sorrow.

One such way we can honor the Virginia Tech students is to continue the traditions and the celebrations which contribute to a university’s energy and vibrancy and purpose. This morning’s event is one such occasion: the student award convocation. We have come together to recognize you for your efforts and your scholastic achievements. I would like to remark upon the impact you have made on this institution during your career here at UNF.

Through President Delaney’s expansive vision of the University of North Florida, we are working on the initiative the President referred to – an initiative to provide our students with opportunities to become transformed by their learning experiences, whether that occurs in the classroom, through studying abroad, or by engaging in leadership activities. Our goal is to set the occasion for students to participate in experiences that will shape their lives and enhance their understanding of themselves, and as a consequence of those experiences, to engage more fully with their communities, their region and their world. What occurs to me when I look at those of you who are here to be recognized today is that, unbeknownst to you, you have all helped shape our conception of “learning as transformation” by the very activities and experiences that you have sought out for yourselves. You have, in a very real sense, insisted on these opportunities from your professors and your coursework – those enriching experiences that we now as an institution promise to provide to all current and future UNF students.

On behalf of those students, we thank you for your help in defining what this university means by transformational learning.

I also would like to use this occasion to express my gratitude to the faculty of UNF. As scholars and as teachers they exemplify excellence in mentorship, and I am proud to be their colleague.