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K-State Today

August 29, 2017

A letter from Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason

Submitted by Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason

April Mason, provost and senior vice president

Dear faculty, staff and students,

How many years have I experienced the week before classes start (quite a few, by the way) and yet the feeling never gets old. We started the week this year with a President's Cabinet retreat, then welcomed new faculty and staff, greeted our new graduate students, and had the University Leadership retreat. We culminated the week on a Sunday evening with the New Student Convocation in Bramlage, followed by a pep rally in Bill Snyder Family stadium. The pace was breakneck, the greetings sincere and the energy palpable. Throw in an eclipse midday the first day of classes and you have one amazing week.

What I want to focus on in this letter is our newest tradition at K-State, the new student convocation. Vice Provost Steve Dandaneau took this idea and made it a reality. The fifth annual convocation went without a hitch. I want to thank Steve and his many colleagues in Student Life and Housing and Dining, who collaborated to get our students to Bramlage for a mini commencement-like exercise. That exercise was complete with bagpiper Terry Ferguson and the faculty Brass Quintet ushering in the President's Cabinet and Deans Council members in full regalia. Professor Steve Smethers served as Master of Ceremony introducing key university personnel to our new scholars. Jack Ayres and Olivia Baalman represented the Student Government Association. We introduced our students to the first land-grant university and showed them the video commemorating our 150th anniversary in 2013.

This year, Professor Greg Eiselein challenged the students to take full advantage of their college careers. (He also told us his son, little Eliot, is now in kindergarten. How did that happen?) We heard three undergraduates, Olivia Haney, Michael Brown and Monica Diaz, describe their experiences in a diverse array of student organizations. Young Alumni award recipients, Dalton Henry and Jorge-Eduardo Mendoza, recounted how a Kansas State University education and student experience had served them well seven years after they had received their diplomas in May 2010. I knew both Dalton and Jorge as seniors my very first semester here. They were fine young men then and are fine young men now with seven years of experience to reflect on and share with our incoming class. They represented our alumni so well. 

I am not sure why it was, but Bramlage must have had some dust issues that evening. My eyes kept tearing up. From the national anthem, to the faculty, student and alumni talks, to the mock diploma presentation to Madison Plouvier concluding with the singing of the alma mater, my eyes kept watering. 

The dust must have really begun to swirl when Professor Brandon Kliewer presented the charge to the incoming class. There is so much that he shared about himself and his experience, but what really struck me was his challenging request to all of us to close our eyes and imagine a room filled with people — those people who care the most about us and have our best interests at heart. He then instructed us to ask those important people, "What do you hope I learn about myself and the world while attending K-State?" Later in his charge, we were to answer that question.

It is quite a world we live in today — full of possibilities and concerns. The concerns tend to grab our attention and can hurt greatly. A very incomplete list would include North Korea, Charlottesville, Barcelona, Hurricane Harvey and other recent natural disasters. The possibility I saw at Bramlage on convocation night gives me hope. Let's concentrate on answering Brandon's question: What do we hope to learn about ourselves and the world while being at K-State this year? This is my last academic year at K-State. This is an important time for me and for all of us to answer those questions.

Will you join me?