Setting Goals Critical, President Says

Keep your eye on the goal, but be keenly aware of the past and what is happening around you in setting both short- and long-term goals.

That was the thrust of a message from Loren E. Swartzendruber, president of Eastern Mennonite University, to the campus community Wednesday morning, Aug. 31, at the opening convocation of the 2005 fall semester.

Basing his remarks on a scripture passage from Philippians 3:12-14, the president noted that "the Apostle Paul suggests that our primary task is to look to the future," the president said. "In recent years I’ve reminded myself frequently that what is in the past can’t be changed. I can’t reverse time. There is nothing to be gained by obsessing about the past.

"Your task and mine," he told his audience, "is to learn from the past so as to chart a better path for tomorrow."

Sara Wenger Shenk leads a hymnSara Wenger Shenk, associate dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, leads a hymn before EMU President Loren Swartzendruber (l.) gives his convocation address.
Photo by Jim Bishop

Dr. Swartzendruber told the gathering of his two years driving a school bus in Iowa while he was still a high school student.

"I learned a few lessons during those years," Swarzendruber said. "A safe driver soon learns to keep your eyes moving, from looking into the distance, back to what is immediately in front of you, to the rear-view mirror to see the traffic behind you. And on a school bus, you also watch the mirror to see what is going on behind you inside the vehicle."

Swartzendruber advised students to work at short-term goals, including attending classes regularly, completing assignments on time, talking with professors about expectations, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, eating properly and joining in corporate worship.

new students leaving convocationReturning students, faculty and staff form a "tunnel of welcome" and greet new members of the EMU campus community as they pass by.
Photos by Jim Bishop

"I challenge all of us – students, faculty, staff – to take these years to reflect on the past and to set goals for ourselves, immediate, intermediate and long range," the president said. "And in our long-range goals, I invite us all to include, ‘to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with God.’

"It is the vision of EMU that every graduate, regardless of his or her chosen profession, will not simply embrace these phrases as nice words, but will embody those concepts in their lives, as a vision to live by."

Erica Kraybill and Joel Lehman, co-presidents of the Student Government Association, welcomed students to the start of the school year and encouraged them to get involved in SGA activities.

The president closed the convocation by leading the assembly in prayer for the millions of dislocated people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and beyond in the wake of the flooding from Hurricane Katrina, noting that "We will communicate ways for the EMU community to contribute to the relief efforts and possible involvement in service opportunities in the days ahead."

EMU’s fall semester ends Dec. 16.