We’ve selected students who want to be ‘aggressively engaged in their own learning’
By WWU President Bruce Shepard
First, from an incoming president to the parents of our incoming students, a warm, warm, Western Washington University welcome. I trust you share the same pride I do in that special affiliation.
Certainly, the pride flows in part from our university’s – your university’s – reputation: the Pacific Northwest’s premier public comprehensive university and one of the very best in the nation. That reputation rests upon the outstanding caliber of our faculty and staff, undoubtedly. And, the reputation is reinforced everyday as faculty, staff and students work closely together in personalized and individualized learning opportunities.
The clearest measure of the quality of Western’s special edge, engaged excellence, is to be found in the nature of the students who choose it. Looking at our entering student class, there can be only one conclusion: Our excellence only grows.
We seek, are able to most benefit, and benefit ourselves most from students who are aggressively engaged in their own learning and in the world that it will soon be their responsibility to explore, understand, and continually enhance.
Now, when I went off to college at 18, I was able to start at a university that was also widely regarded. But, that was many decades ago. I have to confess, as I have gotten to know more about our students – about your sons and daughters – I wonder if I could have competed successfully today for admission to Western.
Who knows. But this lesson I quickly learned: College success depended upon being engaged. I became involved in campus politics and student government, intercollegiate athletics, in several clubs, and in leadership for my living group. And, modern research now convincingly documents what I fortuitously stumbled upon: Being engaged outside the classroom is as critical to academic success as is engagement in the classroom.
Here, parents have an important role. As you support your family members in their academic pursuits, also encourage their engagement in the wider life of the campus and the community. There are so many opportunities available.
With such engagement, their academic success is even more assured. We trust that, in the doing, they learn an important lesson: Education becomes truly higher only when put to higher purposes. And, of course, the bigger secret is that they develop the habits that are the bases for their own personal fulfillment, lifelong.
Enough preaching. I did earn an honest living as a professor for most of my career and so could not resist this opportunity to do a bit of professing. Do know that we are honored to have the privilege of expanding learning opportunities for such outstanding students. There is no more important responsibility; we are, in partnership with you, helping to create the future. It is a responsibility we fulfill with the best available professional practices. But, also with caring, humility, and gratitude.