By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Faculty and staff lined the third-floor rotunda at St. Ambrose University’s Rogalski Center to welcome new students to the university Aug. 21. As the students processed into the ballroom for a convocation and blessing of the new academic year, faculty and staff clapped and greeted them.
Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, the university’s president, welcomed the Class of 2016. “This is your new home for the next two, three or four years,” she said. “At the heart of every university is its students and we welcome you with enthusiasm.”
Sr. Lescinski hoped the students would grow in numerous ways during their time at the university, take part in activities and help make St. Ambrose and the world a better place in enriching lives.
John Byrne, professor and chairperson of the marketing department in the College of Business, gave the anchoring address. He told the students that he has been with the university for 20 years and out of college as a student for about 30 years. He reflected on how things have changed since he attended college. Classrooms had pencil sharpeners, not Ethernet connections. Blackboards were what teachers wrote on with chalk, not a management software system. Students used typewriters and didn’t have the luxury of playing around with font sizes and margins.
“The following words didn’t exist: Internet, Facebook, Twitter, email and Skype.” When students wanted information, they opened an encyclopedia, dictionary, almanac or thesaurus. “Now you just ‘Google’ it.”
Although college and life are much different, some things have not changed, Byrne said. He offered students 10 pieces of advice that he believes have “stood the test of time for success in college.”
1. Enjoy your college experience. “Life passes far too quickly and college passes quickly, too.” College is a gift. Make sure you unwrap it.
2. Perform in the classroom. Your primary reason to be here is to earn an academic degree. Go to class five minutes early, sit near the front of the room, buy or rent your own textbooks, don’t text or surf the Internet during class. Engage in dialogue with your teachers and classmates.
3. Get involved. “Think of this university as a buffet dinner. I guarantee there are some things you will like — intramurals, academic clubs, student government, fine arts events.” These experiences form the heart of your St. Ambrose experience.
4. Stay in touch with your family. “They are proud of you and want to know how you are doing.” He pointed out that it might have been hard for the students to leave home, but it was probably harder for their parents. “Your family is the group that will be with you all of your lives. Talk to them about your grades, your friends, your good times and your tough times.”
5. Try new things. “You’ll be amazed at what you can do. Try something else new.” Sit by different people in class. Sit in a different area of the cafeteria. Try new foods. “And while it is available all the time, don’t eat pizza every day.”
6. Explore your spiritual life. “In case you weren’t aware, we are a Catholic institution. And as such, we believe that spirituality is pretty important.” He said he was not going to try to convert students who aren’t Catholic. “That is Fr. Chuck’s (Adam) job,” he joked. Byrne advised students to spend time reflecting on higher powers and forces greater than themselves.
7. Be a generous and compassionate person. He pointed out that students may have been in or experienced the adverse effects of cliques in junior high or high school. “But those days are over. We don’t believe in bullying or excluding people here.” He asked students to sit with someone who is alone at lunch. Ask others to join them in whatever they are doing. “You will find most people are good if you give them a chance.”
8. Take care of your physical self. “Be good to your body.” He encouraged students to develop good eating habits and to get enough sleep so they can perform their best. “Make sure you get exercise: walking, Zumba, intramural sports, weight training, anything that helps your break a sweat.”
9. Network, network, network. In his business courses, Byrne preaches this lesson as the best way to succeed in business. “It is also good advice for every college student.” He encouraged students to get to know people and to use the wealth of resources available, including people, to help themselves succeed.
10. “My final piece of advice is to protect the most valuable asset you own – your reputation.” No amount of money, fame or thrill is worth sacrificing your character. “Be careful with your conduct and be safe. Sadly, many intelligent young people like yourselves have made some poor decisions that have led to undesirable consequences, including tragic deaths.” He also advised them not to cheat, plagiarize nor to drink and drive.
“St. Ambrose is excited to have you here and we want to do everything we can to help you be successful. May God bless you,” he concluded.
Bishop Martin Amos led the blessing rite and the students, faculty and staff read intercessions. The bishop then blessed the students with holy water. Afterwards, Sr. Lescinski challenged all students, staff and faculty to engage in the search for truth and social justice, to be open to a diversity of opinions and to be civil and respectful of all.