And Relentless

The academic advising team I used to be part of went through a long process to develop mission, vision, and value statements. It was a way to determine who we were and hopefully, as a team, come up with our top priorities in how to support our students. We spent time at our team meetings for several weeks working through the process, with a final bit push through a day-long retreat.

What turned out to be the most important words of the entire process were added almost as an afterthought. They were the motto that was at the bottom of the page, and the one part that all of us had memorized.

“How they leave us matters.”

The phrase encapsulated a view that the final weeks or a months of a student’s experience (before graduation, transfer, or withdrawal) would be the ones that lasted with them. And the ones that they would be most likely to tell others about. Think back to your own education history, perhaps high school or college. What do you remember better: orientation or graduation? Freshman year or senior year? Your first professors or your final ones? The ending of the book impacts how you view the entire story.

When I went to pack up my office two weeks ago, I was the only one in the offices, maybe the only one in the building. I took pictures of things I had looked at hundreds of times before, knowing these might be my last chances. The window overlooking the preschool playground. The wall with “Hello” written in a dozen languages. The view from my desk of the library.

One of the pictures was of the framed mission statement that has been hanging on the wall since before I started at Concordia. Reading through, it is easy to imagine the same level of effort and intentionality that went into its writing as my team had done years ago. And again it is the last line that stands out to me the most:

“We will be creative, strong, and relentless.”

“And relentless.” That means not giving up in the midst of the storm. Cry if you need to. Yell if you want to. Ask for help when you can. Just do not give up. The students I served sacrificed time, money, and trust to earn a degree. With all of the fill-in-the-cuss-word in our world (even pre-pandemic), that required a relentless spirit. How can their professors do anything less?

To paraphrase a Disney Princess: Let the storm rage on. I’ve got sh!t to do.

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