The Season of Gratitude

Dr. Steven W. Shirley
President, Minot State University
Published December 19, 2020 in the Minot Daily News

This special time of year when we traditionally reflect upon all for which we are grateful also coincides with the end of the fall semester at Minot State University. Our students have just completed their final exams and academic requirements for 2020. This has been a remarkable year unlike most in American history, and with that backdrop is a fitting time to pay tribute to those for whom I am grateful, both at MSU and in the broader community. Unfortunately, we all know families who have suffered great tragedy this year. We cannot lose sight of that and know we have a long way to go as we head into 2021 before this pandemic ends. While we offer our collective condolences and deepest sympathies to those directly impacted by COVID, we also pause to express gratitude for what we have.

At MSU I am grateful for the grit and determination of our students. Going back to March, when they were instructed to not return to campus following Spring Break, they have been through much this year. I especially think about the 2020 graduates who were unable to experience an in-person commencement ceremony. We are keeping our fingers crossed and planning for a combined 2020/2021 ceremony in May to properly recognize our graduates. I am also mindful of the experiences our incoming freshmen have endured this fall. What a most unusual start to their college careers! Another aspect of the student experience that has been diminished this year are the many lost opportunities for traditional large campus gatherings. Moreover, our students have been unable to fully display their talents through athletic contests, concert recitals, dramatic performances, and other exhibitions of their skills. Through it all, MSU students have been resilient and made the best of this unique year.

Next, I am incredibly grateful to MSU’s outstanding team of caring faculty, staff, coaches, and administrators. Through the peaks and valleys of 2020, they have maintained a singular focus of educating and serving students and providing important opportunities for their development. There have been many difficult decisions the past nine months requiring flexibility and multiple adaptations. Their steadfast commitment to ensuring we uphold our promise to our students, and to the State, by fulfilling our mission of dedication to excellence in education, scholarship, and engagement through rigorous experiences and a vibrant campus life has been inspiring.

I am grateful for the supportive community of Minot, the members of MSU’s respective boards, and our family of alumni and friends who support MSU. We continue moving forward thanks to the generosity of so many individuals and businesses that have stood by MSU and our students despite what has been a challenging year for many. This was evident last spring with the outpouring of support to our Student Emergency Fund assisting students in need, and has continued throughout 2020. We are well positioned as a campus thanks to their enduring kindness.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I join our entire team at MSU in being grateful for the countless individuals in Minot and across the state who have helped keep the rest of us safe. The doctors and nurses who have tirelessly treated thousands of North Dakotans afflicted with COVID; all of the many others behind the scenes in the healthcare spectrum who help our hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities succeed; the entire K-12 community who continue educating our youth; everyone at First District Health Unit, the ND Department of Health, and the National Guard who have worked diligently since the beginning of the pandemic; our first responders, law enforcement, EMS, firefighters, and dispatchers protecting our communities; the caretakers who are caring for our elderly and vulnerable populations; our funeral homes, churches, and faith leaders for their ongoing efforts to comfort and serve our community; our local and state officials, including the State Board of Higher Education, for their leadership; the frontline workers in grocery stores, retail stores, restaurants, daycares, and others who provide vital services; the personnel at the Minot Air Force Base who continue defending our freedom, pandemic or not; the delivery and logistical workers who keep our economy moving and delivering our goods; and so many others.

Simply put, I am grateful to live in a wonderfully supportive community such as Minot and work at a special place like Minot State. Best wishes to all during this Holiday Season, and all the best as we near 2021.

As always….Go Beavers!