The ability of our university to reach full potential and to engender in students a concentrated and powerful academic experience rests with the nature of the campus as a place to live, as well as a place to study. Ideally, the campus provides a “community” for students.
A high quality of student life is evidence of Southern’s commitment to educational opportunity. A number of factors impact the quality of student life. In addition to academic dimensions, a great university provides widespread and varied leadership and social encounters for students to flesh out educational experiences and develop the citizenship skills that create the foundation of a free society.
The combination of academic and extracurricular activities provides occasion for students to continue to develop moral and ethical perspective, a more complete social and intellectual world view, and opportunities for spiritual and emotional growth. Some would argue that the university is about the mind, and these other aspects of our being should be pursued elsewhere; that the heart and the soul should be left at home.
I believe that, if we are to develop critical aspects of mind and produce a new generation of leaders, we cannot leave unattended concerns of morality, the place of men and women in the world and our relationship to others. These goals should be our highest aspiration. Serving one’s self without regard to others would represent an empty pursuit of limp and lifeless dreams. The fire of social action and engaged existence comes when the various attributes of a person are developed in unison. To divorce intellectual acumen from other passions and pursuits of living – mind from spirit – is to leave the glass half empty.
In our university’s long range vision, Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment, it was said plainly, “Citizen-leaders are the legacy of America. One of the greatest citizen-leaders the country has ever known was well-educated, self-educated, in southern Illinois. Abraham Lincoln understood the power of learning and the importance of it in being an effective citizen-leader. Our aspirations should be clear, and high. Our mission is to educate people who will become the citizen-leaders of the 21st century”.
While clubs, student activities, and cultural and social engagements of the campus help develop the leadership and citizenship aptitudes of students, nowhere is the potential greater than in an energized classroom where a teacher encourages a student to reach deeper inside and to share more of him or herself with others. That student will find a place in a broader world.
Many forces impact the quality of student experience, but none exceeds the importance of the relationship between a student and teacher in the deliberation of a subject relative to a developing world view. Of all indicators of excellence for a university the one signaling quality most clearly is faculty/student ratio. Look at the list of top 50 public universities in the nation and you will see substantially lower faculty/student ratios than those in the second fifty. One of the chief determinants of quality of student life is the interaction between teacher and student… communion here is the core of learning which differentiates education from training.
Our university will serve our students best when serving completely in mind, heart, and soul, and when teaching them by example to achieve the fullness absent in so many contemporary institutions.