New beginnings and new semester

Four days early. I finished my Community Column four days prior to the deadline that the Tribune gives me every two weeks. It was a decent piece of writing too. Then life happened, and I encountered two situations causing me to jettison that effort and start anew.

The two situations were, in chronological order: listening to the State of the University speech by new YSU President Dr. Randy Dunn; then, upon my return home from YSU, reading a Community Column on the TribToday website written by Andrew Herman.

I decided to change the course of my column because that is exactly what might befall my students in composition class this semester as they approach my assignments: the need to adapt, revise, or even begin again.

Andrew Herman used a reference to the U.S. Census website about the low percentage of college graduates in Trumbull County and questioned a K-12 philosophy that seems to shortchange the 83 percent of students in the past who did not graduate from a college.

As a former public school teacher, I understand Mr. Herman’s position. My last 12 years of full-time teaching were spent in the company of high school seniors. Most of them were wonderful, hard-working young adults. Most of them, sadly, insisted that they were “going to college” after graduation and did not want to consider any other options very seriously. In some years, nearly 80 percent of them saw themselves as future college graduates. Guidance counselors, administrators, other teachers, and the visitors who spoke to my classes from the military and area tech or trade schools could not convince the students or their parents about the statistics, which were not compatible with the young people’s dreams.

Despite that disconnect, which I wish I could explain, I still maintain that Trumbull County must not be complacent about its college graduation numbers. Mahoning County scores a bit higher, but both counties are below the state average, and the state average lags behind the national stats in this category. Simply stated, we need more college graduates for the well-being of our communities.

This is not to suggest that college is for everyone; far from it. Our success as a society depends on the cooperation and mutual respect of a variety of people of many ages in various roles. However, the Census Bureau findings seem to suggest that population growth and college graduation rates do affect each other.

Consequently, it was with great interest that I listened to the words of the newest and eighth president of our Valley’s oldest and largest institution of higher learning.

For the past 11 years since my retirement, I have been given the privilege of being an adjunct instructor at YSU. For me, it remains a “dream” job. The university students are, for the most part, fantastic people. They balance family responsibilities, employment, and education, and some even add volunteerism in their communities to that juggling act. Often, they are the first ones of their families to attempt the rigors of college courses, and for all these reasons, they deserve our support.

So, I appreciated the sentiments expressed by Dr. Dunn who challenged the university community to be not only true to its century old traditions, but to respond to new opportunities. I also heard him speak on a hot July afternoon that marked his first day on the job. On both occasions, I was impressed by his candor and determination. He struck chords that resonated with diverse audiences, and I think he even challenged the Board of Trustees and Ohio Board of Regents (i.e. his bosses) as much as he challenged those who, like him, are employed by the university.

Near the end of his speech, he talked about the importance of “relationships” to the success of what we do, not only at the university, but in life. It is obvious how much he values “relationships” in his own life. He speaks of his wife, Dr. Ronda Dunn, with great respect. Hopefully, a relationship with both of them will continue to enrich us, and they will be enriched by us into the future.

Williams is a Hubbard resident. Email him at