A compendium of messages from or regarding President Robyn Hannigan to the Ursinus community.
A series of musings from President Hannigan on contemporary topics that transcend higher education in which she offers thoughts and opinions to the Ursinus family and our surrounding community.
Marginalia: Rewriting the Script on Normalcy
February 9, 2023
My name reverberated across campus one day at the beginning of the fall semester. I was walking from my house to my office in Corson Hall and it caught my attention because I wasn’t expecting to hear such a resounding proclamation in the quiet of campus so early in the day.
Wait a minute, I thought, That student is calling to me! I couldn’t help but smile and share in the excitement of becoming part of a community.
It’s been nearly a year since my first official introduction to Ursinus, but that day in August was one I like to recount because of what it symbolizes to me: the power of connecting with others. It made me reflect on my own experience as a first-generation student, and how it felt trying to find a sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging when I got to college. And I loved what that moment said about Ursinus; the comfort the student felt in calling out my first name—nothing formal, nothing rehearsed. I felt like I belonged.
So, what makes us fit in with a community? Many of us are at Ursinus for the same things: academic interests, professional development, and extracurricular activities, to name some. But there is always something deeper than that for each of us, right? We don’t have to conform to those commonalities to be part of the same community. Our passions and our differences are also our strengths. I like to know what really gets a person going and to unpack that, it starts with a conversation.
Doesn’t that kind of get lost in the shuffle these days? There have been endless studies and articles about a disturbing lack of human connection in a technologically driven world, and one thing that has always been important to me as an educator, scientist, and entrepreneur is the ability to really relate to someone else and to hear them.
Here’s an example: Like many colleges and universities, Ursinus uses the “common app” in the admissions process. There are plenty of advantages. Applying to college is stressful and the common app saves time and reduces that stress. But the very name makes me cringe. Common app. That sounds too generic, doesn’t it? What makes us unique isn’t common at all.
It’s the uncommon that makes us stand out.
We want to attract students and employees who view Ursinus as their best fit to further their education and their professional careers. We want to help create a future for them that ideally suits their abilities, and to truly succeed in doing so, we must get to know them.
Why are you coming to Ursinus? What problem do you want to solve? Are you passionate about finding solutions to climate change? We have an amazing, hands-on environmental studies program that will help you do that. Are you interested in infusing health and wellness into all aspects of your life? So are we! And we signed an international pledge that promises to do just that in every aspect of our campus life.
I want all our Bears to tell me about the things in their lives that have presented challenges and how they’ve handled them—or better yet, how the Ursinus community can help them find solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. I’ve been fortunate in my seven months here to get some intriguing answers to these questions. During the week of my inauguration in October, several students shared the most significant experiences (outside the classroom) that have shaped their identities and individuality. In another event, staff, faculty, and alumni spoke about their transformative “Ursinus moments.” It became evident to me that colleges like Ursinus are places of immense opportunity to create knowledge and to change lives.
But how do we get there? It starts with that connection. We prepare ourselves to see potential behind every door and to do that, the talented admissions teams at colleges and universities across the country must become more intimately familiar with what makes our prospective students and families uncommon. It’s what our own admissions team looks for when seeking out the right students for Ursinus. Because when I see someone walking across campus, I not only want to shout their name—I want to know the person behind it.
President Robyn Hannigan
“Marginalia” is a series of columns from President Hannigan. If you’d like to share your thoughts or reflections on this piece, email firstname.lastname@example.org