How can you prepare students for such a tumultuous world?

During my first fall semester at Lehigh I took a deep dive into conversations with students: officers of student organizations, freshmen, upperclassmen, residential and commuter students, grad students, international students, legacy students, first-generation students, and many of the categories and identities that compose our student population.

Key to preparing students for any challenges they will encounter is helping them become effective communicators.

Overwhelmingly, our students have shared—through words and actions—that they have a willingness, or even a longing, to communicate. And not just “talk” but to have deep and meaningful dialogue on topics that are affecting college students, as well as broader themes that are embedded in our national discourse. Matters of diversity, social justice, politics, religion, constitutional rights, inclusion and even exclusion begin to scratch the surface of formal and informal conversations that take place on any given day.

At Lehigh, we strive to assist students in finding their individual or collective voice. Through mentoring, advising and challenging norms, we affirm students who dare to take even unpopular—yet sorely needed—public stances. We provide support, perspective and expertise— an approach that is student-centered, rather than administrator-driven.

Lehigh students are encouraged to envision and explore possibilities. They talk and work together, in person and in settings that may sometimes initially be outside of their personal comfort zone. But, I believe that in doing so, our students will be well-prepared to take on not just the post-graduation workplace, but a broader society that sometimes seems ill-equipped to promote coexistence with others from differing backgrounds and experiences.

The degree to which our students will ultimately succeed in the world we are sending them to will be rooted in a strong and solid foundation of 150+ years as an institution of higher learning, and shaped by current and future student generations. We are obligated to evolve along with our students so that we can continue to provide the tools and skills to not only grow and adapt to a tumultuous world, but to be the individuals who can shape it in positive, productive and remarkable ways.