Although full of unusual challenges, this year has been abundantly full of God’s blessings.
With the Student Clearinghouse Research Center reporting that North American postsecondary enrollment fell 3% this fall over last year along with the number of freshman students decreasing by 16.1%, we at Southwestern Adventist University were blessed by an increase in overall enrollment growth of 12% and an increase in our freshmen class of 29%. We are thankful for the trust that families and students have placed in us.
This fall we were notified that we were recipients of a five-year Title V grant by the U.S. Department of Education awarding $2.5 million to improve the success of our students through the Pathways to Student Success program. With these funds the University will be able to create a dynamic first-year experience for freshman students, optimize advising, ensure career readiness for all students and provide multiple internship opportunities for students. We are grateful for the affirmation of our University and support from the U.S. Department of Education.
We recently completed a successful $50,000 campaign entitled, Fighting Food and Housing Insecurity. This fund was integral in ensuring that students were able to receive direct financial assistance to ease hardships that resulted from the pandemic. We were blessed by over 60 faithful donors who made this campaign a success.
Renovations are taking place in Wharton Auditorium, a favorite spot on campus bustling with activity. It is at this location that students assemble to worship, fellowship and share their musical and acting talents. Our campus family and the community are grateful to the donor for the significant facelift that will benefit this auditorium for years to come.
I thank God every day for our students, faculty and staff who have weathered the COVID-19 storm with determination and perseverance. After sheltering in place for five long months, our students brought life back to our campus, returning in August masked and ready to adapt to the new normal. Students and faculty adjusted to hybrid courses, attending classes virtually and in person. They mastered Zoom and Teams while juggling complicated subject material. They patiently endured longer lines than usual in the cafeteria as our chef and his crew presented them with healthy and delicious meals while taking many extra steps to keep them safe. They faithfully wore unique wristbands (yellow ducks, penguins, etc.) following daily temperature checks. Students cheered the Knights’ sports teams from the distant sidelines, they shared their musical talents via streaming on the Internet. Many of them self-isolated to keep their families and friends well. They worshipped and prayed together online and in person.
It has not been easy. But God does not promise us an easy life. He promises us an abundant life. This year our theme is “pursue.” Our theme text is “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7. All year we have been seeking peace and prosperity for this campus and our community. Southwestern Adventist University and our community will prosper as God has promised, and it is my prayer during this Thanksgiving season that you too will prosper!