As we get ready to welcome our new students to Alaska Pacific University and welcome back those who are returning, there’s a palpable shift in the energy on campus. Some of it has to do with the uptick in activity following the relative quiet of the campus during summer.
But there’s more to it than that.
In the academic world, there’s a very real sense in which the start of a school year is more meaningful as a time of reflection and renewal than is the start of the calendar year on January 1st. What are the lessons learned from the previous year? What are the priorities? The challenges? What have we done well? What needs adjustment? How can we serve our students, and one another, better this year? What do we hope to achieve? This sense of a fresh start and new opportunities for growth affects us both as individuals and as a community.
Community is what makes Alaska Pacific University unique and it is one of the most important reasons students choose to come, and to stay, at this institution. The sense of community our students are seeking has less to do with our small size than with the spirit and the shared values of the people who are here. The fact that we are small simply affords us greater opportunity to embody and cultivate the very things that make a community both powerful and attractive, such as collaboration, dialogue, mutual support, respect for the well-being and growth of each member and the importance of her or his individual contribution to the health and mission of the collective. The concept of community is woven deeply into our pedagogy at APU because we know that the most profound learning is fostered by an environment in which these values are lived on a daily basis.
It is the re-gathering of the community and its enrichment with new blood that creates a shift in the energy on campus at the start of each new school year. We are reminded at this time that community is something we all yearn for and need, that community makes us stronger than we are as individuals because while it nurtures our own growth, it also inspires us to think beyond our own interests toward what we can do together.
Community is critical to what we do best at APU, but it doesn’t happen on its own. We create it. We are its most important resource. Community lives or dies by what we do, by what we ourselves bring to it, as staff, faculty and students. Let us be here for one another in the coming year. Let us be mindful of the values inherent in community each and every day. Let us be magnificent.