Texas Wesleyan continued its 128-year tradition of convocation as students, staff, and faculty gathered in Nicholas Martin Hall on Tuesday to open the fall 2018 semester.
The convocation opened with the Dr. Gladys Childs, interim dean of the School of Arts and Letters and university chaplain, leading the invocation, the Wesleyan Chamber Singers singing the Alma Mater, and Provost and Senior Vice President Allen Henderson greeting the crowd.
Dr. Beth Battles, faculty chair, opened with a remark comparing Rams with the Transformers.
“There you all are as students disguised as typical young people, only pretending to play with your phones. What you really are is waiting to be revealed,” Battles said. “The process is beginning now at Texas Wesleyan. I hope your transformation challenges you to reveal your true self with all of the potential that suggests. Challenge yourself to new ways of thinking about yourself and about the world. Seek out new opportunities to learn to grow. That way your transformation reveals the true you.”
Battles introduced SGA President Alyssa Hutchinson, who also wished the student body a fruitful semester.
“SGA is an organization dedicated to the power of the students,” Hutchinson said, “and making sure that their voice is heard from the classroom with professors to the board room of trustees. I just want to wish you all a semester filled with growth and opportunities and (I hope) that you will finish this semester and year great.”
University President Frederick Slabach also hopes for a year of growth as Wesleyan continues its transformation into the future. Introducing him, Battles said that, under his leadership, the university has made more than $50 million in improvements to the campus and community, the university endowment has doubled, and overall enrollment has increased more than 50 percent.
“We also know that we’ve had challenges and our share of emotional pain,” Slabach said. “On a personal level, the Texas Wesleyan community has lost beloved faculty members as well as members of the immediate family of faculty and staff.
“On a professional level we’ve had financial headwinds last year that will continue to affect us this year. The national financial outlook for the private, small higher education is negative because of major constructions in the higher education landscape. It’s the subject of conversation at every gathering at the university level. Some small private universities are closing and others are struggling to keep from doing so. We are decidedly not in that category; never the less we’ve had our fair share of these challenging financial times.”
Slabach said that although Wesleyan is not in danger of closing its doors, tough choices had to be made.
“I’ve had to make difficult and painful choices in reducing our expendatures,” Slabach said. “I recognize that these decisions have caused both personal and professional stress, but the purpose of these decisions are to develop financially sustainable model to continue to fulfill our important mission here at Texas Wesleyan.
“It is precisely because of the constructions and uncertainty to higher education that I believe is especially important for all of us to reflect upon our core beliefs about the mission of higher education and the mission of Texas Wesleyan.”
Slabach said that the mission of higher education, and Wesleyan, is to “transform the world by transforming lives one student at a time.”
“This mission is deeply rooted in the traditions and values of Texas Wesleyan,” Slabach said. “Since 1890, Texas Wesleyan has educated the sons and daughters of farmers and ranchers, and cow folks, many if not most of them where first generation college students. We’re proud of our 128-year tradition, but we also must have a vision for the future. The world has changed since 1890. It has changed significantly since 1990.”
Slabach said higher education needs to keep up with the digital age in order to thrive. One way to do that is to offer more online options for working students.
“Higher education must keep up with this change,” Slabach said. “With all the changes in the world, one thing remains the same: the need to learn, the need to think, critical thinking and analytical reasoning. If anything, these higher-order thinking skills will be even more important in the future than they have been in the past. These are the essential competencies needed for today’s students to thrive in their chosen careers. Fortunately, Texas Wesleyan remains committed to developing these skills in order to help our students get admitted to graduate school and to thrive in their chosen profession.”