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25 April 2008
Dr. William A. Meehan:
Volunteers Will Serve Students with a Smile

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - The Jacksonville News

Final exams for Jacksonville State University students began yesterday in the early evening of a day without classes for academic preparation.

The students have endearingly termed the Tuesday before full days of finals commence “Dead Day.” However, this title is really quite a contradiction in terms because although there are no regular classes scheduled, Dead Day is the one day students have to prepare for the exams that await them. Our hope is that students take this day devoid of classes each semester to revive and refresh themselves before the rigors of testing.

In attempt to release a little stress and provide a communal place offering food and fellowship for students studying for finals, the Student Government Association (SGA) is sponsoring the annual “Midnight Snack and Karaoke in the Café” from 10:00 p.m.-midnight tonight at Jack Hopper Dining Hall. For some students it is a midnight snack that will aide in a restful nights sleep, but for many the meal serves as fuel by which to study.

“We enjoy doing this event because it brings the entire campus together for one night and gives a chance for the faculty and staff to fellowship with the students outside of the classroom,” says Brittney Cunningham in her last days as the SGA vice president of student activities. “It’s a good time and takes away some stress.”

Keeping with a long-standing tradition, the students will enjoy a late night breakfast served by the faculty and staff of the university. I am usually flipping out waffles with a JSU emblem in the center, a skill perfected over the years. But this year I will be flipping pages of the NCAA regulations representing JSU and the OVC at the Presidential Advisory Group from Division I.

During the two-hour event, patrons are also entertained by the brave souls who volunteer to show off some talent singing karaoke. Some of the students signing up to sing are in the JSU’s extraordinary music department, making a few of the vocal acts surprising for a karaoke event. No matter whether each person hits the exact pitch or not, the time together to relax and have a little fun strikes a wonderful chord for the evening. Hopper Hall is full of vitality the day after Dead Day.

The aspect of the staff and faculty serving the students is an important component of tonight’s event. It is not often or everywhere you find professors willing to step down from their podiums or staff willing to go beyond regular job duties and reach out to serve college students. At JSU, we value the students as our clients, we teach them as their educators, and we support them as their staff.

Director of Instructional Media Services Tony Gravette has worked the past three years at “Midnight Snack” and before that he attended the event as a JSU student; his service runs full circle. “Every time I have a chance to get involved with the students, I jump at the chance,” says Gravette. He goes on to say the evening provides an informal and relaxed atmosphere for the students to have contact with their administration.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside Mr. Gravette while manning the waffle makers. The informal atmosphere provides a wonderful setting for faculty and staff to take off their coats, tie on aprons and enjoy time with each other outside of boardrooms and meetings while serving our students.

Mr. Gravette had a good chuckle one year when his student stopped by to greet him and asked me who I was. This instance served as a reminder to remain an open and accessible leader for the campus, ready to pitch in pouring waffles or whatever else is needed to serve the community. Good service requires a great servant.

Dr. Rodney Friery, a professor in the sociology department and a diligent “Midnight Snack” worker says, “It’s something we can do for the students right before finals crank up in a light setting; it’s also my way of thanking [the SGA officers].” I do not recall a year Dr. Friery has not served his students at this event.

Whether the students are aware of it or not, they are on the receiving end of a generous act of kindness from their faculty and staff tonight. Including Mr. Gravette and Dr. Friery, there are a number of excellent volunteers working the event, dishing out service with a smile.

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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