If you ask someone in higher education, “What is the greatest responsibility of the faculty and staff of a university?” you will probably get a dozen different answers. Some might say to provide the knowledge that leads to achievement; others might say that our greatest responsibility is to set up students for success in the future. While I think the best answer might be a combination of those, I’ve been convicted about another responsibility that we have as higher education leaders that most universities miss.
A few weeks ago, I ran across this post from Steve Saccone in which he described the path to becoming fully human. After reading it, I couldn’t help but ask, “Are we helping our students become fully human?” Thankfully, I can say with full confidence that what we’re doing at Southeastern University is helping students become fully human in every capacity—not just in academics. We’re dedicated to equipping our students to discover their divine design and maximize the God-given gifts and talents embedded in them.
Here’s how we’re helping students become fully human:
- Mentorship. One way we’re working to invest in students outside the classroom is SEU Connect, a program created to connect students with faculty and staff outside of the classroom and offices for the purpose of mentorship. Every Wednesday, I have the chance to meet with the guys in my SEU Connect Group. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite times of the week. We don’t just talk about school—we talk about sports, extra-curricular activities, home, leadership, relationships and life in general. While students might be apprehensive at first, thinking, “Great, I have the president of the university as my Connect leader,” over the course of the semester, I’ve seen their lives changed.
- Meeting Every Freshman. Another way I’ve felt led to help students become fully human is to spend time with each and every incoming freshman during their first year at SEU. For most students, going off to university is the biggest challenge they’ve ever faced. There’s a lot of pressure to make friends, keep up good grades, and take care of yourself.
As you can expect, most of the conversations start off pretty formal as the freshmen tell me about where they’re from and what they like about the university so far. However, it’s funny to see how their demeanor changes when the conversation turns out to be more about life than academics.
One of the goals in meeting with every incoming freshman is that I want them to know that the next four years are about much more than academics—and if you graduate only focusing in learning from academics, you’ve missed the point. After doing this for the past few years, I’ve seen the impact it’s made as the students become sophomores, juniors, seniors, and eventually alumni.
My goal in this post is not to boast about how SEU is investing in our students. Instead, my hope is that all leaders would begin to consider ways that they can help their students, employees and coworkers become fully human. Because at the end of the day, I believe that is our greatest responsibility as leaders.
How are you helping your students become fully human? What initiatives or programs have you put into place to invest in students from a holistic approach?