An exciting finale for the year
By: Dr. Saundra J. Tracy
Alma College President
There is a rhythm to the school year that is marked by a crescendo during April. This edition of Accents highlights some of those events that make up this sometimes frenetic but always exciting finale to the year – among them honor society inductions and national scholarship announcements, concerts and performances, social and athletic events, Alma’s Honors Day, and finally Commencement. These all vividly illustrate the distinctive qualities of the Alma Experience – a personalized education with uncommon opportunities leading to extraordinary achievements.
The personalized nature of an Alma education is captured so very well in our Honors Day Celebration of the Liberal Arts. This annual event was named the Kapp Honors Day this year in honor of Ronald Kapp, faculty member and provost at Alma College for many years. I wish each alumnus/a and friend of Alma College could attend this two-day event. Approximately 160 students presented their scholarly work, each done with a faculty mentor. I listened to one young woman describe sharing her research with a doctoral student at Emory University due to the similarity of their work and another describe how her experience in New Zealand shaped her project. This personalized learning moves students further faster than many of their peers in other institutions.
Alma College also offers uncommon opportunities for learning, service and leadership. The opportunity to interact with nationally known figures such as this year’s Honors Day keynote speaker, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., offers students new insights into our mission to be “stewards of the world we bequeath to future generations.” Speaking before an audience of 1,000, Kennedy recognized Alma faculty and students for their efforts to empower the community to deal with local environmental challenges.
On the same day, a student team presented its response to the annual campus Kapp Prize competition. This year’s campus challenge was to propose a plan to make Alma a “cool city” as part of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s Cool Cities initiative. The opportunities continue as students and faculty engage in Spring Term courses around the world, applying their classroom insights in new places and new ways. Opportunities abound for Alma students, both on campus and beyond.
We continue to expand these opportunities. During these same two days we broke ground for the new Wright Hall, our much needed new apartment-style residence facility that will stand on the site of the old Wright Hall. This facility will be far more than just new residence hall rooms; it will allow learning about environmental stewardship in the day-to-day living of our students. An Alma education always has been more than what occurs in the classroom. The Alma Experience that prepares students for our rapidly changing world must effectively integrate living and learning in new ways, capitalizing on the residential experience.
These opportunities and resulting accomplishments are affirmed by national and international recognition of our students. Once again, an Alma student has been selected for one of the 77 coveted Truman Scholarships. In fact, we had three finalists this year. In addition, five students have been named Fulbright Scholars for next year. Three students have received coveted Udall Scholarships. and another student has been offered a full scholarship to Cambridge. These are but a few of our many success stories. Other less visible success stories are the extraordinary teachers, leaders of non-profit organizations and others who touch thousands of lives in their quiet but extraordinarily important vocations as Alma alumni.
As I visit alumni groups throughout the country, I am struck by the important contributions Alma alumni are making and have made to their communities and workplaces. There is a common bond that transcends the particular time span spent at Alma. Service and leadership always have been outcomes of the Alma Experience. You will read about Art and Carra Smith in this issue of Accents, exemplars of service and leadership in their lengthy involvement with Alma College and by their generous gift to challenge Alma alumni to increase their support of the College in a variety of ways. Please join Art and Carra and the many others who support our continued quest to offer the personalized education and uncommon opportunities that form the common bond of alumni and our students today.