Being in education nearly all of my life, this is the most exciting time of year. As a child, I loved my summers off, but I equally loved that back-to-school, fresh start feeling. Each year, my mother would take me shopping to purchase the latest metal lunch box with thermos, new pencils, new clothes, new paper, and a new notebook. I was so proud to walk into school with my new gear, knowing that my slate was clean; I was ready for a fresh start to a new school year.
We recently experienced a fresh start of a new school year at Southwestern Adventist University. We began with our traditional Mizpah Ceremony welcoming the new freshmen and their families. The word “Mizpah” comes from Genesis 31.49, where it states, “It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.” During this ceremony, we prayed over our students asking God to watch over the parents and the students while they were away from one other. We also talked about the importance of moving across the threshold from high school to college. This threshold was crossed as our freshmen walked through the Mizpah Gate, an historical landmark and campus icon built in 1937. Walking through the Mizpah Gate represented students leaving their parents to focus on preparing for their careers and future. As students passed through the Mizpah Gate, a red carpet awaited them, accompanied by a line of eager faculty and staff welcoming them to the campus family. A wonderful dinner followed the ceremony, giving our new students and their parents the opportunity to meet and dine with our faculty.
A few days later the returning students joined the freshmen in a back-to-school bash on the campus quad, where they enjoyed a meal together, played games, signed up for student clubs, and lined up for an opportunity to dunk the president in a dunking booth. The evening of fun concluded with the official handshake ceremony. Though our back-to-school traditions are now over and classes have begun, there is still an air of excitement about the start of the new school year.
Education has an advantage over many professions as there is a fresh start each year; however, I think there is a lesson here to be learned regardless of our professions. It is not that we need new metal lunch boxes with thermoses, new pencils or new clothes, but periodically, we do need to press the “Pause” button in our busy lives, reflect on where we are, where we are going, decide what changes need to be made, then begin with a fresh start.
This article is an opinion piece written by President Shaw for the Cleburne Times Review.