Holiday reflections

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It’s so easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of the last four weeks of the year. On campus, the end of the semester dominates our attention, even for those who aren’t directly involved in teaching. Once commencement is over and grades are in, the potential void is filled by a wave of meetings. For those not involved in the teaching mission, there’s usually an Extension workshop and plenty of reports to file. Researchers polish off papers to send to editors or complete grant proposals to finish the year.

Of course, holiday festivities abound regardless of your role in DASNR.

In the frenzy of December, it can be challenging to find time to reflect on the year that is ending and to contemplate the year ahead.

Candidly, it may be tempting to avoid reflecting to avoid the challenging circumstances facing our organization. Certainly budgets are a part of those challenging circumstances, especially the funding we receive from the state of Oklahoma for our work. But even if we weren’t confronted with reduced budgets, we would still be dealing with questions of how to increase the reach and impact of our work. We are in the information business.

The most emblematic feature of OSU is our beautiful Edmon Low Library. It represents a notion about universities that is challenged in today’s information-rich world.  At the time it was built, the building held information few could obtain unless they were enrolled as students or served as faculty at OSU. Today, the symbol of the library seems anachronistic because people have access to information through so many channels via the Internet, smart phones and other technologies. This isn’t to say the library is a thing of the past or that it’s no longer relevant. In fact, under Dean Sheila Johnson’s leadership, the Edmon Low Library is one of the more innovative libraries in the country, serving as a more publicly accessible hub of information made more easily attainable through a broad range of avenues.

Even if we weren’t facing budget challenges, we would still need to change the way we present information – through the classroom (virtual or face-to-face) and Extension (apps or in workshops), as well as the way we obtain new information through the laboratory or in the field. This need to change is driven by the very fact that the world around us is rapidly evolving. That can be unsettling and frightening because there is so much we don’t know about the future. Yet, what we do know is we need to embrace new ways of conducting our work in terms of recruiting students, advising and teaching, conducting research and translating research findings into practice for the people of Oklahoma.

The most reassuring aspect of this realization is that our mission has not changed. In fact, we are the stewards of the land-grant mission, charged with making information more readily available to those who need it to enhance their lives. As we make progress in advancing the land-grant mission in communities across Oklahoma, and using the latest research findings and technologies, we can take pride in the ways people use the information and skills we pass along to help them advance their careers, families, farms, communities and our state.

Each of us has a story that tells of the impact our work has on others. Just as George Bailey needed to be reminded of the impact his life had on others by the bumbling angel Clarence Odbody in the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you may need someone to remind you of the ways you have helped others.  Hold on to those stories and images others share with you, and in the hectic lead-up to this holiday season, remember those impacts you’ve had on others and celebrate that. In doing so, you are celebrating the land-grant mission that gave our university its first mission 126 years ago on Dec. 25, 1890.

I sincerely hope you have a safe and happy holiday season and a wonderful new year!