Tusculum celebrates achievements, urges students to discover their purpose in event marking the start of the academic year

GREENEVILLE – A pioneering spirit filled Pioneer Arena as Tusculum University formally launched the academic year by celebrating what students, faculty and staff have achieved and the president urged these Pioneers to make the most of their time in college.

Dr. Scott Hummel addresses students, faculty and staff during Opening Convocation.

The Opening Convocation is a traditional event to mark the start of the fall semester, and to highlight the joy the university experiences when the students arrive on campus, Tusculum added a new element during this year’s ceremony, held Thursday, Aug. 24. Faculty and staff members formed two lines through which students walked on their way into Pioneer Arena as the employees clapped.

As the new year begins, Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president, shared with students some words of advice provided by a donor during a recent conversation.

“Knowing that you have your whole life ahead of you, she wanted me to remind you to take full advantage of your Tusculum experience,” Dr. Hummel said. “Take full advantage of every class, take full advantage of relationships you establish at Tusculum and take full advantage of the opportunities you have on the field if you are an athlete. She reminded me how quickly this time goes by. This is your time. What an incredible opportunity you have to be alive in this moment. Let’s make the most of this time at Tusculum University.”

Building on that charge, Dr. Hummel tied it into the Tusculum theme for this year – “Called for a Purpose” – from Isaiah 42:6.

“God, the creator of the universe, has called you,” he told the students. “Every one of you holds infinite value because He loves you and has called you. Our ultimate purpose is found in Him. Now is the time for you to discover that purpose. Your purpose will be about more than just you. It will be about making a difference in the lives of others. You not only have an opportunity for this purpose but a responsibility and a duty to seize it.”

Students enter for the Opening Convocation as faculty and staff clap.

At the start of his remarks, Dr. Hummel rejoiced at the many accomplishments of the student body and faculty in the last academic year. Dr. Tricia Hunsader, provost and vice president of academic affairs, spent several minutes detailing many of the ways Tusculum faculty and students attained new heights of excellence. Examples included:

  • Promotions in rank for faculty members
  • Research and other presentations by faculty and students at local, state, regional and national conferences
  • Eight students who earned bachelor’s degrees being accepted into doctoral programs
  • Completion of 812 income tax returns, prepared for free, by Tusculum students under the guidance of Dr. Harold Branstrator, associate professor of management
  • An appearance by Tusculum band students in an episode on the Food Network
  • Publication of written work by Tusculum faculty and students
  • Internships by College of Science, Technology and Math students at Bays Mountain Park, Brights Zoo, Idaho National Labs, Eastman Chemical Company, Avanti, Ionic Technologies and the U.S. Forest Service
  • 116 student-athletes earning the Division II Athletic Directors Association Academic Achievement Award
  • 196 Pioneers selected for the South Atlantic Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll
  • 385 student-athletes named to the Tusculum Athletic Director’s Honor Roll

“Students who choose Tusculum belong here,” Dr. Hunsader said. “At Tusculum, faculty and staff will know your name and, more importantly, will invest the time and energy to get to know you.

Dr. Tricia Hunsader speaks during Opening Convocation.

“You came here because at Tusculum University the faculty, staff and coaches really care about you – personally and individually. What has set Tusculum apart for 229 years is that you the students, your struggles, your successes and your futures, matter to us. You belong here. Your story is now and forever a part of our story. 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.”

Touching on a hot topic in academia and the rest of the world in his charge to faculty, Dr. Joel Van Amberg discussed the impact of artificial intelligence. Dr. Van Amberg, faculty chair and chair of the History, Museum Studies and Religion Department, compared it to the massive change brought by the internet in the 1990s. He said the world is on the verge of another sizable shift with artificial intelligence that will impact every segment of society. He believes the effect of artificial intelligence will be even more profound than what the internet brought.

Because artificial intelligence will shape the future of the workforce in considerably new ways, Dr. Van Amberg discussed the educational process of the ancient Greeks and suggested it could be a model for thinking about education in a post-AI world. He presented three of their ideas.

  • Cultivating the mind
  • Cultivating character
  • Cultivating relationships

“As we educate our students, let’s keep our eyes on the horizon and prepare our students for the day when the questions I am raising become urgently pressing,” Dr. Van Amberg said.

Student Maggie Vickers addresses her fellow Pioneers.

Dr. Joel Van Amberg delivers his faculty charge during Opening Convocation.

Opening Convocation also included remarks to the students from Maggie Vickers, president of Student Government Association. She is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in history and English and is involved in numerous activities on campus. She focused her comments on the students.

“Whether this is your senior year or your first year at Tusculum, I am excited that you are here and just want to take a moment as your president to formally welcome you to the university,” she said. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to serve as your president. Whatever your concerns are, I want to help you. I want to support you in whatever you want to do.”

More information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.