President looks to future in General Assembly

January 17, 2013

Dr. Michael D. Shonrock, president of Emporia State University, presented his third General Assembly on Monday, Jan. 14, to launch the Spring 2013 semester. Classes began Wednesday, Jan. 16.

Dr. Michael D. Shonrock flashes Stingers Up during the Spring 2013 General Assembly.During his presentation to more than 450 faculty, staff, students and community members, Shonrock presented a New Years resolution for the Hornet family, looked forward to the university’s 150th anniversary year and challenged all to move forward.

“Culture triumphs strategy every time,” Shonrock told the crowd in Webb Hall.

A key to Emporia State’s culture is summed up in the resolution the president suggested for 2013: Yes, we can!

Rather than focusing on procedures or customs that provide stumbling blocks, everyone was encouraged to focus on how to make things happen.

Guidelines for the new culture at Emporia State University also can be found in the book, “The Go-Getter” by Peter B. Kyne. Written in 1921, “The Go-Getter” tells the story of a new employee who refuses to take no for an answer and is asked to obtain a particular blue vase for the owner of the company. The employee’s response each time he is given a task: “It shall be done.”

“The blue vase — or gold vase at Emporia State University — is that impossible project that pushes you to the limits of your energy,” Shonrock explained before offering copies of the book to those attending the assembly.

“The first rule of the go-getter is to never take no for an answer,” Shonrock continued. “Hunt for that eventual yes and don’t take yes for granted. Remember, every yes is an opportunity, not a gift.”

The president then appointed everyone at Emporia State to the Go-Getter Task Force with this charge: “Consider what current policies or practices at Emporia State prohibit you from getting things done. We created these policies and practices and we can improve and change them.”

The general assembly, which traditionally launches the fall and spring semesters, also was the first official function of Emporia State University’s sesquicentennial year. A yearlong celebration begins on Founders’ Day, Feb. 15.

As Shonrock looked toward special events and plans to celebrate the significant anniversary, he shared the idea of “filling the dash” as presented by author Linda Ellis in her poem “The Dash.”

The poem tells the story of a eulogy given by a man at the funeral of a friend. He noted that his friend’s life was summarized by two dates separated by a dash.

“For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth…
And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.”

Said the president, “What we do in our dash is important in 2013.”

Significant events during the university’s sesquicentennial year include a gala celebration kick-off on Feb. 15, a campus visit by the Kansas Board of Regents in April and a student-led project to plant 150 trees on campus for Arbor Day on April 26.

Also coming to fruition will be searches for a new provost and business school dean with a goal of being hired and in place for Summer 2013; creating and launching a campus master plan focusing on beautification and building; creating a new strategic plan for the university and planning for the 2015 sight visit of the Higher Learning Commission.

Shonrock concluded by previewing the Now and Forever comprehensive campaign that has a goal of raising $45,351,863 and sharing the sacrifices it takes to create a vision and work toward it.

The Now and Forever campaign has four components. Nearly one-fourth will go to sustaining and building annual support; more than half is earmarked for recruiting and retaining scholars — both students and faculty; the final one-fourth is designated to capitalizing on our strengths and creating champions in athletic programs.

Recounting a true story from the 19th century, Shonrock showed what could be accomplished by people of vision. Between 1848 and 1854, he said, nearly 20,000 workers built the Semmering Railway to connect Vienna, Austria, and Venice, Italy.

Engineer Carl Ritter von Ghega oversaw construction despite knowing there was not a train built yet that could travel the steep grade.

“He knew that if he provided a vision and a tangible foundation for achieving it, the rest would come quickly,” Shonrock said of the engineer. “And it did.

“Engineers soon began designing the most technologically advanced train of its time. Freight, then passengers followed later. Nearly 150 years later, Carl’s tracks still stand; his vision achieved.”

Concluded Shonrock: “Sometimes vision requires movement and action before confirmation of its legitimacy is attained. Focus on what you know, learn what you don’t, push forward into the mist and believe that the train will eventually come.”

The video of Dr. Shonrock's address and the performance by the Educational Theatre Company that opened the assembly is online here.

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