One new University of Lynchburg student is an acclaimed Elvis tribute artist who donates part of his income to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Another collects sports gear to ship to children in Ethiopia and Belize. A third has worked on recovery efforts after natural disasters in New Orleans and Detroit, while another has completed two trips to Haiti to work on childhood health and nutrition programs.
These were a few anecdotes that Rita Detwiler, vice president for enrollment management, shared about the Class of 2020 during Convocation Tuesday morning, celebrating the beginning of the new students’ college experiences. “You may already feel like you know each other through endless forms of social media, but nothing compares to what we highly value: coming together as a community,” said Detwiler. “Your past actions prove your commitment to be highly engaged in your new community.”
While the Class of 2020 gathered in the Dell, campus leaders shared advice to guide them through the next four years — and beyond.
Dr. Kenneth R. Garren, president of the College, encouraged the students to learn about themselves, embrace the breadth of a liberal arts education, and seize opportunities that will help them reach their goals.
He also noted the importance of developing active leadership skills and a strong sense of morality. “Leadership is not a spectator sport,” he said. “You need to be looking to your compass, your moral compass.”
Student Government Association President Drew Vogel ’17 told his younger peers that he kept to himself when he first arrived at LC. “I rarely stepped out of my room for anything I didn’t have to do,” he said. “This cycle lasted for about two weeks until I realized, isn’t college supposed to be fun?” Then he got involved in clubs, Greek life, and other activities that helped him meet friends and allowed him to cultivate leadership abilities. “Invest in the people you’re around, and let them invest time into you,” he said, adding that he recommends interacting personally rather than digitally. “Put down your phone.”
Heather Garnett ’05 MEd, director of alumni, discussed the importance of stretching one’s horizons. “In college I learned to take on more than I ever thought was possible,” she said. “It really does make a difference in your confidence level moving forward.”
Dr. John Styrsky, winner of the 2016 Shirley E. Rosser Award for Excellence in Teaching, urged the students to take time for exploring and finding what they want most in life. “I think life is long and it is very well worth the time to find out what is important to you,” he said. Some people sprint toward their goals in life, but others wander and ponder their options. “You can wander but still be deliberate in your choices and actions,” he said. “You may not know where you are going, but you can be guided by your interests and what is important to you.”
He advised the students to develop a reputation for hard work. “You may be tempted to limit the amount of effort you expend… but it is really important that you develop a strong work ethic now,” he said.
But he tempered his recommendation for hard work with one other piece of advice: “Go fishing.” He said once when he expressed the necessity of spending all weekend studying, a friend responded, “I have to go fishing.” Dr. Styrsky realized that using recreation to relieve stress and find enjoyment was wise.
“Your arrival here reminds us of the importance of our mission,” Dr. Styrsky told the students. “Whether you sprint towards your future or wander a little bit before you get there, either path gives us cause for celebration.”