The sun is setting on this academic year, one fraught with transition and hope, personal tragedy and collective triumph. The 2012 graduating class enters uneven terrain. The pervasive ideal of college as a springboard to a fruitful career is becoming less certain.
But, as with all experiences, our graduates can take comfort in their accomplishments alone and not merely in what they promise.
In the waning hours of 2011, we met our new president. Michael Shonrock was chosen to lead our university through an uncertain future. On the heels of sagging enrollment, he set forth an ambitious agenda to rectify the mistakes of past presidents and to establish a new dialogue with the faculty, staff and students of Emporia State.
No administrational change, however, could overshadow the sudden and tragic loss of students. The deaths of Zheng Lin and Yawei Fan in a house fire in October and the suicide of Mingxuan “Alex” Yang brought pause to the ESU family. The ensuing grief has yet to completely vanish. To many, their deaths were a reawakening to the realities and hardships that each student faces every day.
But while we were grappling with death, we somehow found delight. It was a year of unprecedented victory. ESU’s debate team finished what was, undoubtedly, the competitive highlight of our school’s year. LaToya Williams-Green’s Debater of the Year accomplishment is no less than intercollegiate debate’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. The team of Williams-Green and Ryan Wash defeated teams from Harvard, Northwestern and every school in between in their march to a top 5 finish for the season. A Hornet’s pride swells at the thought.
Encompassing every highlight of the year is a foolish task. What cannot be ignored is that each student carries with them a story about this year that will be held for the rest of his or her life, floundering relationships that met their end or promising new ones, an academic hurdle unlike any before and the besting of that hurdle.
The narratives are as varied as the experience of the students. We hope that whatever story you take away from this year that you can feel comfortable sharing in our collective identity as Hornets.