Response to Flag Issue
February 3, 2017
Dear Moravian Community,
I appreciate the passionate concern expressed for our international students, faculty, and community in light of the recent presidential executive order temporarily barring entry into the United States from seven specific countries. I believe deeply that our strength as a college community and society increases as we embrace diversity. We are a stronger country because of our immigrant roots, and we are a stronger college because of our international students.
I have given the petition to fly the flag at half-staff a great deal of consideration, and while I recognize the interest in a visual institutional response, I do not believe this action is the correct response for Moravian College, nor do I believe it will result in the desired message. I think doing so would continue to further divide us as a college and a nation by favoring one ideology over another and requiring us to explain what we mean by the action. It would continue to distract us from the main issues facing our college, and this country, and pit individual against individual. Finally, it is often a misunderstanding that the flag can be flown at half- staff at the will of a college president or other local official, which is not the case. For clarification regarding the Flag Code, and issuance of an order to lower the flag to half-staff as a memorial salute, please see http://www.usflag.org/nffhalfstaff.html
I will continue to advocate for the rights of international students, scholars, and staff to study and travel freely in the United States.
We are also exploring an initiative where we place banners of celebration in the hands of the Comenius statue. These banners would praise our educational history, mission and values.
I encourage all of you to seek out your elected representatives and let them know how you feel about the issues before our country. I also encourage you to support those within our community who are made to feel uncomfortable by these policy changes, and those that advocate a different position. Please show them what an inclusive, caring community looks and feels like-- one where they can openly debate diverse issues and opinions and still remain collegial. We have done this since 1742. May we remain true to that sentiment now and in the future.
Executive Order on Immigration
January 29, 2017
Dear Moravian Family,
I am writing to you concerning President Trump’s executive order this past Friday that may affect many of our international students.
I want to reassure you that we value individuals from diverse backgrounds, countries, religions, and ethnicities and how these differences enhance our College. Remember that the original Moravian settlers who founded our great institution were refugees escaping persecution, eventually finding refuge first at Zinzendorf’s estate, Herrnhut, and then in Bethlehem, PA. We understood then the importance of being open to many ways of thinking and we continue to value deeply the roles that the members of our community, whether or not they are immigrants or refugees, play on our campus and in our society.
While I know everyone is concerned, we do not know enough about the order or the more recent stay from a federal judge to react effectively. What we do know is that our international students are not at risk at this moment because they are not traveling. Those that are on campus and in classes are fine. We are encouraging them not to travel, if at all possible, until we know more and to carry their international documents with them at all time.
I am currently in Washington, D.C. for the annual president’s meeting with our representatives in the federal government. I am sure this will be one of the major topics, and by the end of our meetings, I expect to have a better understanding what the executive order means for Moravian and for international students studying on our campus. I have personal meetings scheduled with Congressman Charles Dent and Senator Pat Toomey’s staff.
While we will need to comply with the law, we join the Association of American Universities statement calling for an end to this travel ban that affects so many legal citizens, including students and faculty. You can read the AAU’s statement at http://www.aau.edu/news/
I ask all of you to give us time to understand the implications of this act and how best to respond as a community. Please rest assured that the safety of all of our students, staff and faculty is at the forefront of our efforts and concern.
2017 Winter Commencement - Northampton Community College
Thank you President Erickson, members of the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, family and friends, and most importantly, all the graduates of the class of 2017. It is an honor to be with you today--to celebrate your accomplishments and to celebrate Northampton Community College’s 50th anniversary. This year we are also celebrating the 275th anniversary of Moravian College--a College whose mission and founding are very similar to that of that NCC. Both were founded to serve the local community by providing a high quality, affordable education. So it is an honor to be here today on this anniversary--the same year that both President Erickson, or as I hear he likes to be referred to as “Twinkle-toes Erickson” and myself are contestants on Dancing with the Stars. But more about that later.
Today we celebrate your commencement. Commencement is not an ending--in fact, it means beginning, it is the start of something not the end. So what are we starting?
I am a medievalist by training and so much of what you see up here on the dais and out in the audience--the pomp and circumstance and the way we are dressed comes from the Middle Ages. In fact, the commencement ceremony itself is the second longest continuous Western tradition. The only continuous tradition older than the graduation ceremony is the breaking of the host. So one could say we value education, next only to the value we place on celebrating God.
The dress you see us all wearing comes from the 12th century. At one time all faculty were clerics, and we wore clerical robes. Sometime after that period, a group of clerics thought it would be a good idea to modernize their dress and make it more fashionable for the times. Clerics involved with the Universities said they would not change and so today we still wear 12th-century regalia.
Those faculty who are wearing masters robes in the audience are actually wearing what was considered our teaching robes, or our work clothes. There was not a costume malfunction in the design of the master’s robes in that it appears that the arm comes out of the elbow. In fact, the little pocket that is created and hangs down from the arm is actually very useful as it provided faculty a place keep pieces of cheese and bread as snacks as they lectured during the 12th-century. It also provided a way of funding the faculty as students would put coins into the faculty’s sleeve if they thought the lecture was worthy of payment. Finally, the robes that you see before you have colorful hoods around their necks. These hoods were originally the monk’s cowl, the actual hood that cover their heads and kept them warm. Over the years, these cowls became colored and represent both the degree the individual attained and the school from which that degree was earned.
Another aspect from the Middle Ages that I think bears weight on our commencement ceremony here today is the concept of the quest. As you may already know, the stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the roundtable focus on the idea of the quest. Now the quest is often for a material object, more often than not, it is for the holy grail, the cup that caught the blood of Christ. The material object is simply the reason the Knights go out on the quest. But the material object is actually a fool’s quest. The true quest is what one learns about oneself, one’s self actualization, that can eventually improve the individual and be brought back to the society thus improving society. For example in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the quest is that Gawain will receive a blow from the Green Knight that may strike off his head. Over the course of the year-long quest to receive this blow, he learns that he loves life too much and is not willing to lay his life on the line for his king. He returns to the kingdom with this self realization and thereby renews his society.
Each one of you has just completed a quest. You started this quest when you enrolled at Northampton Community College. I am sure that many of you entered the world of college unsure, unconfident, and just a little bit scared, just like the Knights of the Roundtable enter the forest where they begin their year-long quest. Also like the Knights of the Roundtable, the fool’s quest is a material object--in this case a piece of paper called a diploma. The real quest was what you learned about yourself over the course of time. Sometimes that self-knowledge is not always positive, like it is in Gawain’s case. You may have learned that you were not good at a certain subject, or you may have learned that your dream career wasn't right for you. You may have had to switch majors multiple times, or you may have learned that a friend wasn’t really a friend. But hopefully, you have also learned what you are good at, and what makes a great friend. Hopefully you grew and you have greater understanding of who you are and what you believe in. Hopefully, you developed grit--an ability to bear down and get the job done to the best of your abilities and strengths. Self actualization is the real quest--to know who you are.
Here’s the bad news...quests never end. Whether Northampton Community College is the end of your formal education, or you are continuing on to a four-year college like Moravian, your quests will continue. Your next quest may be that first job which again is not about the material object of a paycheck or a big office. It is about your continued growth as a human being, about further understanding who you are. If you are continuing on for further education, you enter a new quest to see what skills you have. Through these continued quests, you are able to improve society by improving who you are. Then you each one of you will be able to leave your mark on society. What will your mark be? This is we call it a commencement, a beginning.
So that brings me back to dancing with the stars and twinkle toes Erickson and our shared quest to hold the mirror ball. Now you know from what I've talked about that the mirror ball is simply the fool’s quest for it is a material object. The true individual quest is what President Erickson and I will learn about ourselves. We may learn that we are even worse dancers than we currently believe. We may discover a new love for dancing. No matter what we learn the ultimate goal is to make our community stronger, and that is where we leave our mark on society. The ultimate quest is to provide valuable funding for the state theatre and the arts, and we hope that you all will come out and see us through this quest so that the Freddy awards can be funded. Just so you know, my name is spelled Grigsby and you write that in the best dancer category line.
A quest forces us to grow as individuals and get out of our comfort zones. Life would be pretty dull without quest--without a reason to stretch and see what we can really do. A quest helps us realize that which we are good at and that which we are not so good at, and we are able to return to our society and make it stronger by first making ourselves stronger.
Congratulations on completing this quest. Remember that the material object is always the fool’s quest and that the true quest is self actualization. Good luck and may God bless you and your future quests with great success. Thank you.
Moravian College President Dr. Bryon Grigsby on LV Discourse
Moravian College's 16th President, Dr. Bryon Grigsby, joins host Sally Handlon on this Lehigh Valley Discourse.
Handlon and Dr. Grigsby talked on WDIY shortly after his inauguration in April 2014; now it's time to revisit and learn what's new, expanding, and changing for Bethlehem's oldest college.
(Original air-date: 9/15/2016)
The Value of the Liberal Arts
By Bryon L. Grigsby '90
The value of the liberal arts has been under question for over a century in this country. However, new data demonstrates that the liberal arts degree may be more valuable than ever before.
According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), the liberal arts helps students to think critically and communicate effectively, to present ideas from multiple perspectives and viewpoints, and to solve complex problems. While liberal arts colleges only graduate 3% of college graduates, one-third of Fortune 500 CEO’s have liberal arts degrees. The myth still persists, however, those students who graduate with humanities and social science degrees will only find work serving fast food.
The AAC&U has recently completed a long-term study titled, How Liberal Arts and Science Majors Fare in Employment, found that humanity or social science majors make on average more money in their career than those who majored in professional or pre-professional programs. Also the unemployment rate was only 1% higher for liberal arts majors versus professional programs and only 0.4% for people over the age of 41.
The liberal arts student has become more valuable because the needs of the workforce have changed. College faculty are trying to prepare students for jobs that currently do not exist, but will exist in 5 years. They are also trying to prepare students with information that changes or may become irrelevant in less than 18 months. Lastly, they are preparing young people for 3-5 different careers over their lifetimes. It is a daunting task for any college professors, but the liberal arts professor is not educating them for a specific job, but imbuing them with skills that are transferable across many jobs and careers. Furthermore, they are teaching students how to learn for themselves and develop new skills as society changes.
While the myth persists about the value of a liberal arts degree, the data demonstrates something very different. The skills developed through the liberal arts—problem solving, critical thinking, and communication—are all skills sought after by employers regardless of the student’s major.
Liberal Arts Colleges are responding to the need to put theory into practice, and many colleges now have externships, paid internships and even co-ops where students can see how well their soft skills work in the real world settings. Moravian is committed to providing a solid liberal arts and professional background for all of its students.
Bryon L. Grigsby is president of Moravian College, a private liberal arts college in Bethlehem, PA.