Looking forward, looking back

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In ancient Rome, Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions; the month of January incorporates his name, which is certainly appropriate in our modern calendar. He is depicted with two faces, one looking forward, and one looking back. As we reach the end of the semester and the interim presidency at VCSU, he might also be seen as a symbol of the many new beginnings and transitions we experience this month.Commencement was held in Vangstad Auditorium on December 13 for our fall graduates, including 10 graduate students and 111 undergraduates. This ceremony is called both “graduation” and “commencement” because of the Janus-like situation we are celebrating: students “graduate” by completing a program of study, and we celebrate their accomplishments (past endeavors); students also “commence” as they move into a new status with the university (they are now alumni) and the professional world of new careers, graduate programs, and exciting opportunities. Commencement is our time to reflect on our students’ achievements and growth, while wishing them well in the next stage of their life.This month our campus has been experiencing a similar “Janus” situation, with the start of our new president, Dr. LaFave. I have really appreciated all your support and congratulations as I step away from the interim presidency—the Commencement ceremony last Thursday was my last official act as interim president. By the time you read this, Dr. LaFave will have officially begun his service as VCSU’s new president, although he has been actively involved behind the scenes in decisions and transition activities for at least the past month.We have enjoyed a good year at VCSU, with record enrollment, U.S. News “Best College” recognition, and exciting innovative educational initiatives in our programs. I appreciate the hard work of our faculty and staff to keep VCSU activities moving forward this year. Now we anticipate the year ahead with new leadership and new challenges. We are so fortunate to have a new leader who understands the culture of smaller campuses and communities in the Upper Midwest, and who will quickly become both an advocate for VCSU and our liaison to the community and state.The Roman god Janus looks both forward and back because beginnings and transitions don’t happen by themselves. As political theorist John Schaar writes, “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” Please join us in welcoming Dr. LaFave to Valley City as we create our new future together.