Monday, May 31, 2010

The safe choice

The other day I was putting gas in my car when a man got out of a large truck and headed into the convenience store. What struck me right away was his t-shirt. I've seen some pretty unusual t-shirt messages, but for some reason this one caught me off guard. In fact, it's still nagging at me several days later. It was a simple shirt with no artwork...just block letters across the back. The t-shirt read, "Take the safe choice."

It's a perfectly benign message at first glance. I'm sure there are plenty of times in life when selecting the safer of two options makes sense. For example, it's typically better to view the lions at the zoo from OUTSIDE the cages rather checking them out up close. Sure, safety is a good thing. Still, it was an odd enough message that it made me step back and think about the choices I've made over the years. Would I have been better or worse off in the long run if I had let this advice guide my decision-making? What if at every fork in the road, I carefully selected based purely on safety? What if I had never taken a risk?

It would have been safer for me to stay in my first job - teaching eighth grade English. After all, I was tenured (doesn't get much safer than that) and I loved working with kids that age. Still, when I had the opportunity to move to teaching at the community college, I said, "why not?". It was a great decision, although definitely not the safe one. Here's another time that comes to mind - it would probably have been safer for me to wait until I was older and more established in my career rather than getting married at twenty years old. After all, we were very young and the experts probably would have told us to take a more cautious route. But, thirty-eight years later my husband and I are still going strong and we have a lifetime of shared many ways, we grew up together. I wouldn't trade that for anything, even though it was no doubt not the safe choice at the time. I think about any number of "unsafe" choices I've made - from two trips to Africa (could have caught malaria, after all) to starting a doctoral program at 53 years old (why go through all that in your fifties?) to leaving a "safe" job in Syracuse at a place I had worked for 27 years to move to Canandaigua and become president of FLCC.

I never really thought of myself as much of a risk-taker, and I'm sure there were times when I took a risk and it didn't work out so well. Right now, though, I can't think of even one time when that happened. It seems to me that when making life choices, the #1 criterion shouldn't be which way feels safe. I've had much better luck by taking the route that excites me and just feels right.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The end of the academic year is always an incredibly busy time on campus, and this year was no exception. One thing that strikes me during this time of year is the very different ways our students make their own personal connections at the college. When I attended the Athletic Awards banquet, I could hear the pride in the voices of our coaches as they described the contributions of the members of their teams, and there was great energy in the room as team members cheered each other on. At our Phi Theta Kappa induction ceremony, I recalled when I first met this year's officers and I thought about how much each of them had grown in poise and confidence as they worked together to provide leadership to this important group. At the Honors program graduation celebration, I felt the deep connections that students make in our honors courses, with each other and with the faculty. Each of our campus centers had picnics to celebrate the end of the academic year. As students and faculty at our Newark Campus Center sat down for a picnic - including competitive games of bingo and a prize wheel - I was reminded of the close connections students make in the more intimate environment at our Centers. When students walk into a campus center, they are likely to be greeted by name. Students at the Victor picnic were presented with certificates recognizing their unique talents and in Geneva there was a brand new celebration for campus center students who are graduating. At the Spring Arts Festival, students in our music program performed with their friends and displayed their work - another very close group on campus. At the Nursing pinning ceremony this morning our graduating nurses will share the stage at the CMAC with nursing students who are completing their first year in the program, all in white uniforms and caps (which they are likely to never actually wear on the job!). This is a traditional ceremony where the graduating nurses will "pin" the class that follows them. It always reminds me of the connections students make with faculty and students within their programs as they work together to master their disciplines. There are so many more ways that students make connections at FLCC - from residence halls to work study jobs to student government to clubs and events, our students forge lasting relationships that connect with their own personal interests and needs.

Our commencement speaker, Dana Hansen Chavis, will speak today about the importance of relationships in living a fulfilling life. I know our graduates will be thinking about the relationships they built during their time at FLCC and how those special connections shaped their time with us.