Tusculum celebrates achievements, issues calls to action during the Opening Convocation for the 2022-23 academic year

GREENEVILLETusculum University highlighted the extensive accomplishments of faculty members and students as it formally launched the start of the 2022-23 academic year with calls to action that will build on the tradition of success at Tennessee’s first higher education institution.

Dr. Joel Van Amberg, faculty chair, holds the mace at the start of the Opening Convocation.

The university held its annual Opening Convocation ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 23, in the Marilyn duBrisk Theatre of Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center. Faculty members, led by Dr. Joel Van Amberg, faculty chair, processed into the building with Tusculum administrators. They were joined by the president of the Student Government Association and other university leaders. Other Tusculum students and staff members watched the procession from their seats.

“We are thrilled to begin this academic year and watch our faculty members prepare our students to be career-ready professionals,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “Our students will achieve academically by working one-on-one with their professors, further developing connections with the community through civic engagement and having multiple opportunities to participate in social activities and to grow spiritually. Through an active and experiential education in a caring Christian environment, our students will be poised to carry a pioneering spirit into the world after graduation.”

Provost’s perspective

Dr. Tricia Hunsader, provost and vice president of academic affairs, set a celebratory tone by touting the accomplishments of Tusculum family members within the last year. She cited the four faculty members who achieved the rank of full professor – Dr. Robert Gall, Dr. Peter Noll, Dr. Chuck Pearson and Dr. Travis Williams. She also noted the nine faculty members who earned promotions to associate professor – Dr. Dennis Ashford, Mikaela Cooney, Dr. Katherine Everhart, Vicky Johnson- Bós, Dr. Conor Keitzer, Dr. Kurtis Miller, Dr. Kellen Myers, Dr. Hollie Pellosmaa and Dr. Jeffrey Perry.

Dr. Tricia Hunsader, Tusculum’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, speaks at the ceremony.

She provided numerous examples of faculty members contributing to stellar student performance, attaining publication, presenting at conferences and reaching out to the community.

Switching to the students, Dr. Hunsader emphasized the many ways these Pioneers are demonstrating their academic talent. She named the 26 students who participated in Tusculum’s Academic Symposium and the five students – Sarah Calfee, Joe Calloway, Avery Carper, Emma Harriman and Maggie Vickers – who were named Ledford Scholars through the Appalachian College Association and received funding to conduct research in the summer.

Dr. Hunsader shared news about students producing a literary journal, “Sit Lux”; presenting their work at the Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Symposium; and performing well in debates. She also spotlighted how student-athletes from many different teams earned honors for their scholarly and athletic accomplishments.

“You came here because at Tusculum University the faculty, staff and coaches really care about you – personally and individually,” Dr. Hunsader told students. “What has set Tusculum apart for 228 years is that you, your stories, your struggles, your futures matter to us. We believe in you and the power of a Tusculum education to change your life, and we look forward to helping you achieve your dreams for the future.”

Student leader’s viewpoint

Tusculum Band members perform before the start of the ceremony.

Ben Gall, the Student Government Association’s president, makes remarks at the Opening Convocation.

Touching on the university’s theme for this year – Be the Light – Tusculum senior Ben Gall, the SGA’s president, challenged students to make a difference, help someone else, be a positive force and contribute to a cause in which they believe.

“Every generation faces unique challenges, and every generation has a cohort of people who work to resolve and tackle those problems,” Gall said. “The people I see in this room are the people we need to tackle today’s toughest problems, whether it be climate change, the mental health crisis or the retirement crisis. It’s going to take a new generation of young people ready to enter the world and carry out their callings to fix them.”

Message to the faculty

Dr. Joel Van Amberg, faculty chair, issues a charge to his fellow professors during the Opening Convocation.

As he presented his charge to the faculty, Dr. Van Amberg said he had reflected lately about academic life as a calling or vocation. He referenced 1 Corinthians 7:20 in which the apostle Paul says people should remain in their calling. Dr. Van Amberg described a vocation as a commitment to transcendent values, specific ways of thinking, one’s outlook on life, lifestyle choices and personal habits. He urged his fellow faculty members to lean on their calling because they will find genuine joy in that place.

Dr. Van Amberg connected that vocation to the academic culture at Tusculum.

“The fact is that knowledge grows through the efforts of groups of academics and teams of researchers working collaboratively to solve knotted problems and tackle difficult issues,” he said. “Then, they gather around them communities of students, teach them what they know, train them to think and prepare them to carry the work forward. It turns out that cultivating communities of learning is central to the academic vocation.”

Guidance from the president

Quoting from Chapter 8 of the Book of Nehemiah, Dr. Hummel discussed the importance of people listening.

Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president, speaks during the Opening Convocation.

“When you go back to your classes, when you listen to your coaches, listen attentively because you have this incredible privilege to learn from expert professors and committed coaches,” he told students. “There are a ton of distractions, and for you to be able to listen and take advantage of some amazing professors, you’re going to have to put away some of those distractions and to focus on what you are hearing.”

Dr. Hummel also encouraged students to listen to those with whom they disagree and to be open to reconsidering their own views.

“Don’t absorb things you already agree with uncritically,” he said. “When you hear something you don’t agree with, don’t be hypercritical of that and ignore it or excuse it. Listen to what you disagree with. James 1:19 says, ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ The ability to see something from somebody else’s perspective is a quality of college graduates.”

With the new academic year now underway, Tusculum is accepting applications for the spring, summer and fall terms in 2023. To learn more about the university, please visit www.tusculum.edu.