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10 January 2008
Town & Gown:
Reflections and Resolutions as New Year Begins

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

Reprinted here in its entirety.

The beginning of a new year is a popular time for many people to create fresh goals and generate new resolutions. However, without reflecting on the previous year, it is impossible to foresee an obtainable future.

For fall 2007, Jacksonville State University saw its second highest enrollment in school history. This fact echoes that the plans implemented for this school year are on target for growth to meet our goal of 10,000 students.

Confucius was wise to determine reflection as the noblest path taken to gain wisdom. It is difficult to step forward in the direction of grand ideas for a brand new year without first consulting how the previous year panned out. In the business world, it is important to find out what you have, in this case, what programs produced positive results, before making plans to acquire new products or implement different procedures.

Charles Groover, former head of the Art Department, retired this past year, leaving his department on a high note. Last October, the ribbon was cut to officially open the new Gladys M. Carlisle Fine Arts Facility providing much needed space for students in design, ceramics, drawing and photography classes. According to Groover, this new state-of-the-art facility is currently the best of its kind in the state.

Reflecting on his time at JSU, Groover said the changes, from a university standpoint, have been amazing. He saw growth and maturity turn into an increase in quality and numbers. “The university has grown immensely in all aspects since I first came,” he said.

“As an artist,” Groover says, “I’m an observer and recorder of events, and the way I interpret those events is my art.” As a photographer with almost 35 years of combined school teaching experience, he offers the following reflection: “Teaching is a two-way street: you share information with students, but you also learn a lot from them as well.”

What Groover learned from his students and colleagues can be used to influence his own work, for his career as a professor has come to an end, but his career as an artist will continue. Then, even after producing his own work, Groover can analyze each photographic to learn through self reflection what he should change in the next shot.

The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City is famous for the brilliant frescos of artist Michelangelo, however if he were alive today, he would most likely be able to point out each area of the ceiling or wall that could be improved upon. The benefit of looking into the mirror of your own life is that it allows for maximum self improvement, for who knows you better than yourself?

In the same way, the staff and faculty at JSU analyze strategies, policies and teaching techniques of the past year in order to better serve our students, the community and each other for the following year. Thomas Edison said, “What man’s mind can create, man’s character can control.”

To appropriately welcome in the year 2008, let us first reflect upon 2007. It is only after completing this evaluation that we have the opportunity to gain the wisdom Confucius spoke of and become mirror images of a freshly-formed idea in what I hope is a Happy New Year.

Erin Chupp, a graduate assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications, contributed to this article.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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