Opening Convocation -- Fall 2012
Dr. Daniel Klingensmith, Chair of the Faculty and Professor of History
Good morning! My name is Daniel Klingensmith. As a teacher of history here at the College I will have the good fortune to have many of you in class at one point or another while you are here. And as the chair of the faculty for this year, I have the honor to welcome all students this morning, on behalf of the campus community. Welcome, to all of you who are returning to us; and welcome, especially, to all of you who are new here.
Maryville College is a place to encounter people and ideas you didn’t know about before. It’s a place to discover things about yourself that you didn’t know before. It’s also a place where, every year that you are here, you will meet very interesting people. This is a place to form lifelong friendships. Some of these friendships will be with people, who though new to you, will seem comfortably familiar, because they share many habits, tastes and ideas with you. You may be surprised to find yourself also forming friendships with others whose habits, tastes and ideas seem very different and at first even unsettling. I wish you the joy of both these kinds of friendships—don’t miss out on either.
Maryville College is also a place to expand your knowledge, your skills, and your horizons. Right now, the world needs as many knowledgeable, skilled and broadly aware people as it can get. We live in anxious times. But the world’s problems are not insurmountable, if people of understanding, faith, ability and courage will apply their talents and goodwill for the good of all. If you choose to do so, your generation can make the world a significantly better place.
Your college education will be directly relevant to this task. The problems of the world are complex. None of the important ones can only be understood from one perspective. None of them can be solved from only one perspective. For the sake of teaching and learning we may divide everything into different disciplines—psychology, literature, physics, music, political science, and so forth. But the major issues of our time are all interdisciplinary. Making a better world will require people who can think across disciplines and understand the multiple dimensions of the situations we face.
I’m glad to say that the kind of liberal arts education Maryville College offers embraces and promotes learning across all disciplines. It also builds vitally important skills, like critical thinking, communication, quantitative analysis, research and others. Outside the classroom there are opportunities to develop leadership skills, creativity, organization, discipline and perseverance. The knowledge and abilities that you can gain here will be directly useful in making the world a better place, whether you go on to careers in business, law, medicine, teaching, government, ministry, non-profit work, or any number of other professions. And speaking of careers, employers actively want broadly-trained workers with good problem-solving and communication skills. They like liberal arts college graduates!
When I went off to college, my father liked to close most of our phone conversations with the words, “Don’t forget to study.” Thirty years later, that’s still good advice. But I would add to it: don’t forget to find opportunities to grow—grow your awareness of the world and grow your ability to meet some of its challenges. The rewards of such growth, whether your measure them in your career, or your life experiences more generally, or the good that you can do for the world, will be well worth the effort.
We who work at Maryville College are delighted to welcome you who have chosen to pursue your education here.