October on the Trinity campus is one of my favorite times of year. The weather subtly shifts and the campus buzzes with visits from parents, alumni and prospective students. This year, we completed a record-breaking giving challenge, with 2,898 gifts totaling $536,340 made in 1,869 minutes—or 31 hours. Attendance at Trinity in Focus weekends continues to be up by more than 50 percent, and registrations for Alumni Weekend are exceeding expectations.
The energy of this season is exhilarating, but it is also important to recognize what a stressful time this can be as well. Mid-term exams (and mid-term elections) are upon us. Rush is in full swing. Some are homesick. Some have overcommitted. Some are anxious as they anticipate the end of their college career. Complicating all of this is our country's highly divisive, highly charged cultural and political climate.
Now is when the mettle of our campus community and our values will be tested, which is why I again invoke our values of Community and The Individual. I point to our mission statement, that calls upon us to prepare graduates to pursue lives of meaning and purpose. To live these, two fundamental conditions must exist.
First, we must endeavor to trust one another and to earn that trust through our actions. I would encourage us to approach each concern or conflict expecting and offering goodwill. Dissension and disagreements—these are a vital part of the liberal arts experience. When exercised in an environment of shared trust, they can lift us up and move us forward.
Second, we should practice empathic listening. This, too, is a faculty critical to living our values. Empathic listening is difficult in a media culture that rewards speed, brevity and snap judgments. But in a community like ours, one that values critical thinking and meaningful dialogue, it is an imperative.
If we practice at these two things—building trust and empathic listening—we may lessen the stress of an especially fraught time, on our campus and in the world. We may help the voiceless be heard. We may find that our grievances are less dire and our problems are more easily solvable than we first thought.
There is much momentum on our side as we work to realize our vision. Prospective student interest continues to climb. Alumni and donors are engaged. Our graduates are achieving ever greater degrees of success. My greatest hope is that we will accelerate this forward progress by relying on the core of who we are as Trinitonians: independent thinkers who learn deeply and act meaningfully, including in our relationships to each other and our campus.
As Trinity's chief storyteller, I love to share news about the University. But I also love hearing from you. Please feel free to contact me at TUPresident [at] trinity.edu. Also, follow me on Twitter @TU_President19 or follow conversations on my website at president.trinity.edu.