Hiram College

Dear faculty, staff, and students,

Writing usually come easy to me. I have learned, in the pursuit of my degrees and through the humbling experiences of transformative writing groups, how to think carefully about the topic, the audience, and the purpose of the piece. I have also learned—after plenty of trials and errors—how to structure content and emanate an appropriate tone. Additionally, I have come to fully embrace the practice of outlining, one I actively resisted in AP English when I foolishly thought I knew more than Mr. Marshall.

So, when I sit down every other Thursday morning to write these notes to campus, I relish the reflection it affords and the time I take to do something that gives me joy. Sending words of thanks and consideration to those of you who read these bimonthly notes is one of the many duties I love.

Unlike most notes, however, this one was hard to write. Along with other leaders with whom I have talked, I am struggling with how to do important things like: write and reflect on situations around us and, more importantly, to identify and enact the very real things we can personally and collectively do to help mend the world near and far. The latter is an essential part of Hiram’s mission.

Knowing its importance, I ask all of us at Hiram College to consider what things (big and small) we are doing as individuals and as a community at this very moment. It is a moment when we face horrific hate-crime shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a Louisville Kroger grocery store. A moment, amidst the midterm election season, when explosives are being sent to political adversaries. Closer to home, it is the same moment when many faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees are modeling how to positively embrace the systemic, structural, and pedagogical changes afoot at Hiram. These are the very changes most of us believe will teach students how to learn, to navigate the many personal and professional journeys they will take, and to address the urgent challenges of our times.

As we go about teaching students to face any number of real-time changes, challenges, and opportunities, here is just a sampling of a few specific things that we have done for ourselves and for our neighbors who enjoy the wonderful community asset that is Hiram College:

  • The Eclectic Scholars, with the support of ABM and Campus Service Coordinator Valeria Bejar, organized a campus beautification day yesterday. Faculty, staff, and students rolled up their sleeves and dug in (literally) to clean up projects around the campus.
  • Last week, we welcomed hundreds of children and their families to our annual community trick or treat event. Also in the Halloween spirit, The Student Life staff created, hosted, and staffed a haunted house on Sunday evening that ushered 300 guests through the Quad.
  • Garrett Munro, Jenn Clark, Jim Tolan, and Jim Kercher led a small but interesting appy hour at the Field Station that featured technology upgrades and project-based learning.
  • Nine students are spending their evenings and weekends soliciting gifts to improve academic programs and physical spaces. Over the past three days, they have raised $17,000 primarily from new donors.
  • To further this fall’s “Ethics and Technology” theme, Professors Kirsten Parkinson and Nick Hirsch were guests on Ideastream’s The Sound of Ideas to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with a far-reaching audience.
  • Professor Merose Hwang also made an appearance on a podcast recently, discussing the history of shamanism and its practice today on an episode of Korea and the World.
  • This evening, there will be a candlelight vigil. It will be a time to come and stand together; to respect the lives of the 13 people who were recently murdered; to pray for their families; and share the gentle power of kindness, compassion, and neighborliness.
  • A number of people turned out for Monday’s Candidate Night. Please vote next Tuesday.
  • And speaking of voting, our voter registration drive prompted 200 students to register to vote next week at the Coleman Center.

As you can see, one of these events pays homage to the men and women killed in inhumane hate crimes. A couple are related to positive political and democratic engagement. Others help us bring pieces and parts of a liberal education to community members who are hungry for food for thought. Still others are simply acts of coming together to create a space where we can work, laugh, celebrate, and improve the community where we spend the vast majority of our time at this moment in our lives. If all of this together is what students, faculty, and staff everywhere do, then colleges and universities will have a small but important part in helping to mend the world…in all of its corners.

So, as we wake up each morning and contemplate how we might face the changes in the larger world, let’s start by facing the changes at Hiram in positive and productive ways. In doing so, it is largely the very little things we do, day in and day out, that shape and create the ethos of this place. Things like how we listen and respond to each other in classrooms, faculty and student senate meetings, and the like; how we act in public spaces like the hallways of the Kennedy Center, library, Bistro, fields, courts, and pools. It is the extent we get off the academic sidelines and get involved in the academic redesign. It is the degree that we put words to actions.

Many of you are serving as role models in all of these areas and more, and I thank you. Your attitudes and behaviors will continue to propel us forward, even when change is hard.

Your President,

President Varlotta Signature

Lori Varlotta