Bringing It #63: End of Year Reflections
Our home campus here at Elon University has that feeling of sudden emptiness and tired satisfaction that marks the week after Commencement. Elon was relatively fortunate in the pandemic, thanks to thoughtful administration and much campus buy-in; students were able to remain on campus, taking social distanced or hybrid classes, with only minor surges of infections. But here as everywhere, it was a year of jaggedness and stress, a year when students, educators, and everyone deserved a full measure of grace. Even more than usual, this Commencement calls for celebration and gratitude.
This year’s celebrations of course still bore the traces of this year’s struggles; here at Elon, attendees were masked and staggered in three socially-distance ceremonies. But it was wonderful to see students, families, faculty, and staff gather with one another and moving to hear the graduation speaker, Elon alum and musical theater actor Daniel J. Watts, celebrate the possibilities of metamorphosis and change.
As campuses across the country mark the occasion, we at BT2P want to honor the tenacity and resilience and growth of graduates everywhere – twenty-somethings and returning adults, English majors and coders, students in community colleges and liberal-arts colleges and public universities, and minority-serving institutions. We honor graduates who had to contend with the effects of isolation, racism, financial stress, exhaustion, Zoom classes in bedrooms, and toxic politicians. We honor students who were essential workers and those who took care of children, parents, and siblings. We also honor everyone who couldn’t enroll or stay in school; we hope the coming year brings the opportunity to return, learn, and move toward your degree.
No one succeeds on their own, and it’s a wonderful commonplace of Commencement to thank parents, children, friends, mentors, educators – everyone who supported and nurtured the graduates. Those relationships were more necessary than ever this year. But it was also a year when faculty and staff were sustained by students, as we confronted our own vulnerability, exhaustion, and sense of failure.
As for BT2P, our work is not finished and we are not graduating. But we too want to mark the year’s end with gratitude and celebration. It was a blessing (if that’s not too perverse to say) to move to a campus struggling through the effects of the pandemic, the economic crisis, and the racial reckoning. Recognizing this was occurring on campuses across the country, we’re proud to have launched The Way Forward initiative in response to those crises. We’re inspired by multi-institutional projects supported by TWF grants. We’re energized by the first season of conversations in The Way Forward podcast and we are thankful for the research and editorial support that David’s students in the Masters of Higher Education program at Elon provided this semester. We remain excited by the amazing partners in our PLACE Collaboratory, and we will be telling you soon about new initiatives.
Like the graduates we honor this month, we are mindful that everything creative and sustaining in BT2P’s work depends on relationships, on our connections to students, to fellow educators, to our community of change-makers – to you. In this time of culminations and commencements, we celebrate you, and we thank you.
With warm wishes for a relaxing summer,
David, Kate, Kelly, & Todd