The annual “Launching the New Year” event was held Tuesday, August 30. The entire University community was invited to join in this traditional Sewanee celebration of the new academic year, and All Saints’ Chapel was comfortably full.
Provost John Swallow introduced the student leaders, who each spoke briefly about their aspirations for their respective student organizations in the coming year.
President of the Student Government Association David Harkins, C’17, spoke of the SGA’s goal of connecting students to the administration and to the community. In an effort to increase opportunities for input and feedback, the SGA has established regular “office hours” this year. Harkins encouraged students to explore the Domain, and to get to know themselves and their peers, making the most of this place and the opportunities if offers.
Molly Payne-Hardin, T’17, president of the St. Luke’s Community of the School of Theology, said she had received advice from College alumni before leaving for seminary: “Don’t forget the undergrads.” She hopes seminarians will engage one another across the whole seminary community, and shared examples of seminary and college students working together to improve our joint community life.
President of the Order of Gownsmen Sarah Reeves, C’17, used the occasion of the launch to make “new year’s resolutions” for the academic year. These include reconsidering the name of the Order: “Traditions must be inclusive.” Another goal is to further develop the gown library so that all students who earn one will have access to a gown.
In his remarks, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell shared his optimism for the coming year and the years that follow. He cited both enrollment and financial data as reasons for confidence. And he referred to the themes of the University’s strategic plan (creating an exemplary learning environment; realizing the potential of the Domain; extending the reach of the University globally and locally; and fostering a diverse, cohesive, and inclusive community) to talk about progress made toward these goals.
McCardell offered Scholarship Sewanee and Finding Your Place as illustrations of Sewanee’s exemplary learning environment. He updated the audience regarding facilities planning for the School of Theology and the “distributed” University Commons. Finally, he shared plans already in place for the coming year addressing the goal of fostering a diverse, cohesive, and inclusive community.
Ten task force reports were submitted at the end of last academic year to a Committee on Diversity, Cohesion, and Inclusion. A few of the actions that came out of those reports are: Center for Teaching workshops for faculty on creating an inclusive classroom environment and strategic social issue framing; Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, Between the World and Me, was made a “common book” for discussion by the entire University community; in mid-September Sewanee will host a symposium commemorating the 150th anniversary of Tennessee’s ratification of the 14th amendment; Terrell Strayhorn, from Ohio State University, will speak on campus about diversity and inclusion; New York Times columnist Bob Herbert will also be here to speak; Sewanee will host a POSSE workshop for student leaders and faculty.
McCardell urged his listeners to participate in one or more of these events, and, as a community, to help mend a weakened social fabric by making a commitment to act. Read the vice-chancellor’s full remarks..
The event was followed by a picnic in the Quad, including games and live music, for students, faculty and staff members, and their families.