On March 31, 2017, I will retire from American University. The last few months have been a time to reflect and savor a wonderful career at an exceptional institution.
After 20 years as vice president of Campus Life and over 40 years working with and advocating for students, I have been asked what lessons I have learned — seven came quickly to mind:
- Show up — presence is powerful. Working in Campus Life is a little like being on the town council in a small community. People expect you to be with them in celebration and in adversity and to share many experiences with them in between. Regularly showing up nurtures a sense of community.
- Assume good will. Most of us act out of good intentions. If we assume the same of others, more often than not, they will meet or exceed our expectations.
- Things are rarely what they seem at first. A quick response can be the enemy of accuracy and fairness.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. Expectations, wisely set, can spare others disappointment.
- Strive for grace. Grace resides in consideration for others. Like good will, it usually is reciprocated.
- Polish your work. Two old sayings inspire this lesson — "Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well," and "The reward of a thing well done is having done it." If you want satisfaction in your work, do it well.
- Life is short — spend it in the company of good people. Few things matter more to the quality of life than the company you keep. Choose your friends and colleagues well.
As I leave AU, I can say that I have spent my time in the company of very good people, indeed — they are the students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni who make AU exceptional. It has been the best of times. Thank you, AU.
Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle,
Gail Short Hanson, Ph.D.
Past Vice President of Campus Life