Perry White: Students returning to campus call to mind memories, change

Watching students arrive on the Bethel College campus last Saturday and this coming weekend
sometimes takes me back to my own college days.

I can vividly recall loading up my 1975 MG Midget with a suitcase tied to the luggage rack on the back, containing all the clothes I would need for the fall semester (There was no room in the trunk. In fact, was there a trunk? I think the spare tire took up all of that space.), the 12-inch television on the seat beside me and the folding mattress/chair on top of that.

The books I had already purchased were tucked neatly, individually, in between and under the two
seats. My guitar was the only thing I could fit behind the seats.

I can remember saying goodbye to my mother and heading out the door to mount my little orange chariot to start the journey. Even as a stoic Iowa farm mom, I can imagine she found herself at the door
of our house to watch me drive out of sight and I wonder how she felt about the empty nest left to her.

Today, things seem a bit different. Last Saturday morning, as I made the journey from Goerz House
where we live, up to campus, I passed SUVs filled to the gills with items. I passed flatbed trucks and
cattle trailers stacked with furniture, microwaves, flat-screen televisions, computers, barbeque grills and luggage. In fact, some of these vehicles had two of each of these items, as siblings are attending the
college together, but living in separate rooms.

What also caught my attention was the fact that the students were nowhere in sight. Parents were unloading and toting items toward the residence halls. It seems that this is the new normal!

Indeed, colleges today plan their schedules for campus load-in and orientation with this new normal in
mind. Orientation is focused on the parents as much as it is for new students. The college carefully plans sessions to acclimate parents to this day of change as much as we do their children.

The orientation of new students is a two-day event, or series of events, all leading up to the grand good-
bye on Sunday. The full entourage often is present for the occasion. Family photos are taken around the new college student and in front of the entry sign with the iconic building behind them. Grandma and Grandpa get their hugs and kisses, as do the younger siblings who came along. Dad gives his child a hearty hug while Mom gets that last, long goodbye.

With a charge of, ?Call me every day? or maybe a?Text me every day,? the family drives off, and the new college student is left with little else to fill these early hours of his or her new-found life other than athletic practices, meals, sleeping, television, video games, email, social media, meeting new people and, oh yes, the customary introduction to Druber?s, the local donut shop.

For many of these families, move-in day is a day of change, for some, dramatic change. However, Adlai Stephenson said, ?Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job.?

Indeed, this day of change for these students is a change for the better. It is the first step toward the attainment of that college degree, the first step toward the fulfillment of their dreams and an important step toward finding and pursuing their purpose for life. We are honored to play a role in that endeavor ? that is, service to our students. For that is our purpose.

By Perry White

Perry White is the 14th president of Bethel College in North Newton. Before that, he served as vice president of Advancement and Admissions at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and as vice president for Advancement at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. White served six years as the director of choral activities and Music Department chairman at Monmouth College. He has been director of choral activities and vocal activities at various colleges and has a doctor of musical arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Oklahoma.

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