Student Trustee: Who We Are at St. Mary’s

The name St. Mary’s College of Maryland is steeped in meaning and tradition. We have long identified ourselves based on the sense of community people experience when they come here, or when they visit. As an institution, we have never doubted who we are, or what we do.

We are a community built on the foundation of openness, kindness and caring. We are active in the world, both on the small and large scale. In many ways, we already make such a difference in so many places.

However, over the years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that reaches to every level of the campus community. People are beginning to care less about each other and about what this institution does. Many people who see a problem will complain about it, and then expect someone else to take care of it.

When walking down the path, most of us stare straight ahead, for fear of making eye contact with a stranger. There’s certainly not the culture of saying hi to everyone on the path these days. Heck, a number of people simply turn up their iPods and tune out the world.

Just the other day, someone came up to me during my office hours and said, “as a whole, we just don’t care any more.” While I wouldn’t go that far, she had a good point, and she’s not the only one I’ve been hearing it from.

I still know that we have a wonderful community when it comes to integrating new students into the campus culture, or banding together for the occasional service project. People are still passionate about the clubs they’re in, or the sports teams they play for.

Academics are certainly not falling to the wayside, as we continue to excel as the “Honors College” of Maryland. In no way am I implying that we have become an apathetic institution. I’m just saying that we need to rise above what is expected of us and open our eyes to the world of possibilities before us.

Margaret Mead once said, “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What I see when I walk down the path everyday is a small group of thoughtful people. There are two thousand of us, which in our insulated life by the river may seem like a lot, but in the grand scheme of things is really quite small.

The best thing about changing the world is that it doesn’t require titans or legendary figures such as Leonidas or Caesar. Ordinary students such as us can make a difference by being mindful of our actions. To live mindfully and in the present can help bring about a cultural transformation.

For now, all I ask is that we begin with small actions. When we pass a stranger on the path, say hello. Instead of stepping over a piece of trash, pick it up and put it in the next trash can. When people ask you for help, thoughtfully consider it before making a decision, and whenever possible, choose to help them.

If you feel as though you have the time, maybe even look into doing something larger. Get creative with how to better our community, no matter how big or how small the action may be. By bettering ourselves as a group, we put ourselves in better positions and better states of mind to go forth into the world and make a difference.

To quote Gandhi, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Much love to all, and I’ll see you on the path!

Trustee Talks Strategic Plan

Who likes planning? It’s one of those tedious tasks that always seems to be hovering over you like a rain cloud until that day you finally get a plan hashed out and a rainbow shines through. Who doesn’t like rainbows?

Well, right now, the college is stuck with the rain cloud. We’re at the end of our old strategic plan and are in the process of pulling together a new one. The strategic plan is the guiding document for the entire institution heading into the future. In this case, it’s going to cover the next five years, and will encompass every aspect of campus.

As our current draft is now structured, we have four overarching goals that everything else we want to do fits under. They are: a rigorous academic program; access, affordability and diversity; sustainability and environmental stewardship; and community and civil engagement. Each of these is further broken down into vital priorities, and then more tactics within those priorities (sometimes with sub-tactics under that; it’s like a giant, mind-boggling outline).

While the goals are labeled one through four, and everything within the goals has a number of some kind, nothing has been prioritized, which is a slight problem. That’s going to take another bajillion meetings, but it is so necessary in order to make the tough decisions.

We have some sub-committees that are dealing with the nitty gritty, and then those sub-committees bring their work to the full committee for feedback. In essence, this is going to be a long process, so buckle up.

Now, I want to know when my terrible metaphor is going to come back to fruition and we’re going to see the rainbow for all it is worth. If you cross all your fingers and avoid breaking any mirrors, we’ll have the whole nine yards squared away by the end of the academic year, possibly sooner.

Things were greatly delayed last year due to our lack of a full President (shout out to Larry Vote for the excellent job he did as acting President). But now with President Urgo on board, we’re really cracking down.

His vision is feeding into the whole of the strategic plan, and the final draft is beginning to come together. If you want to know more, or give your opinions on what is best for the school, don’t hesitate to contact me at druthenbergmarshall@smcm.edu!

See you on the Path!