Message from the Dean – April 1, 2019

First some good news:

UCO Interior Design student Stephanie Mitchell has landed an internship as a Walt Disney Imagineer, Interior Design Intern. You can see some of Stephanie’s work at the upcoming Senior Design Show, April 11 or online here. She will begin the internship this summer in Burbank, CA. Congratulations, Stephanie!

More good news:

Members of UCO’s Kaleidoscope Dance Company were honored as selected performers for two original dances at the Central American College Dance Association Gala on March 16 at Missouri State University. Congratulations to Nate Tylor for his choreographed solo, “A state of Discourse,” and to a group of Kaleidoscope dancers for their performance of guest artist Noa Shiloh’s original dance, “Here and There.” The works were among only 10 selections from universities across the five-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. A fantastic achievement by our dancers!

Now a story:

In a meet-cute worthy of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in their prime, my first date with Sandy stemmed from improbable twists of fate. In August of 1981, Sandy’s friend group of rising seniors at Andrews University rented a sailboat and captain for a weeklong barefoot cruise in the Bahamas. A last-minute cancellation resulted in a scramble to procure a replacement participant. A work acquaintance who had signed on for the trip, offhandedly asked if I had $300 and a free week. Even though I was merely a rising college freshmen that year and would know virtually none of my fellow passengers, I was lured by the siren song of adventure and the thought of spending a sun-drenched week sailing the islands with college girls. I enthusiastically agreed to go.

After a heroic 20-hour van odyssey from Michigan, the group clambered aboard the sailboat in Ft. Lauderdale, and charted our course for the Bahamas. When we disembarked at Nassau, a gaggle of friends agreed to a 7:00 p.m. muster at the pier. From there, the proposed itinerary included stops for pizza and roulette, followed by a nightclub frolic on Paradise Island. By the appointed time, only Sandy and I had appeared for the rendezvous. It soon became obvious that no one else was coming. After a few minutes of animated tête-à-tête with this tanned, blonde, blue-eyed beauty, I brazenly asked if she cared to proceed with the original plan on a two-person economy of scale. She looked me over, apparently liked what she saw, and agreed to an outing that rapidly developed into our first, unexpected, and nearly blind, date.

Fueled by mutual attraction, the romance of the islands, an intoxicating sense of adventure, and the scent of coconut oil tanning lotion, the conversation sparkled. Sandy took my hand as we strolled across the steeply sloping bridge between Nassau and Paradise Island. After checking all the boxes on the original entertainment plan, the charmed evening continued on the deck of the gently rocking sailboat, ending with our first kiss in the wee hours of the morning. Something inexplicably enchanted crystalized that night. We were inseparable for the remainder of the cruise, even though Sandy’s upperclassmen colleagues shot her consistent side-eye for “robbing the cradle”. Like any proper 80’s rom com, that improbable and accidental first date in Nassau initiated the pivotal, defining partnership of my life. The cliché, “happily ever after” actually applies in my life.

This trip, experienced while balancing on the knife-edge of what is now termed “adulting” is ingrained forever in the memories of the participants. I am an underachiever compared to many of my fellow voyagers of 1981. Companion passengers included Thomas Blincoe, now Executive Director of the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, Terry Johnsson who would become head of Volkswagen brand sales for North and South America, Dr. Ron Stout (the work acquaintance who invited me) has just been announced as the next President and CEO of the Ardmore Institute of Health, Kris Denton is Global Head of Wipro Consulting, and the Honorable Eric Shepperd is a judge in Texas. While the excursion did not lead directly to these successes, there is a proven relationship between future achievement and high-impact, transformational practices in higher education, such as study abroad. For all the participants, this trip contributed directly to the realization that life is immeasurably enriched through experiencing cultures outside our own sheltered microcosm.

Transformational learning activities such as writing in all courses, student/faculty research partnerships, community service, civic engagement and study abroad extend the educational environment beyond the classroom. The most effective transfer of knowledge does not occur through students seeing and hearing in the traditional pedagogical lecture model of sage on a stage. Students learn most effectively by participating in real-life processes. Field trips, study tours and cultural immersion are memorable and successful tools for learning. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

The experiences we provide for our students, such as a Wind Symphony expedition to Germany, or a theatrical tour to Edinburgh are frequently their initial trips outside America. In some cases, these journeys are the first foray for our pupils beyond the borders of Oklahoma. As we ponder our future goals as educators, let’s dedicate ourselves to providing the maximum number of high-impact learning opportunities to our students beyond the comfortable and familiar confines of UCO. Astonishing prospects, life-altering twists of fate, or even a meet-cute may await.