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Forever Changed; Forever Educated

August 05, 2020

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by Murray State College President Joy McDaniel

In a perfect world, there would be no COVID-19, no families heartbroken by loss of relatives or jobs.  No debate over masks or social distance.  No worries about leaving the house or paying bills.

But as you know, we do not live in a perfect world.  In our world today, many are suffering and many have been broken in ways that are difficult to witness and even harder to endure.  The world as we know it is a world forever changed.

Forever changed and temporarily challenged, but still full of hopeful communities comprised of nurturing individuals.  The world is still filled with opportunities through optimism and attitude.  We can still see the sun and make plans for the future.  We can set goals for ourselves and make a difference in the world around us.  We can spend more time with our families and seek out things that really matter.

While we are thankful that rural Oklahoma has been more fortunate than locations like New York and Florida, we must continue to be mindful of others as we navigate a pandemic like most of us have never seen.  We must be educated, resilient and ready to meet the new normal.

Most of higher education headed into the month of March like seaside villagers preparing for hurricane season.  We battened down the hatches and got down to the business of making plans.  Plans to continue educating students and protecting our campus communities.

At Murray State we were successful in keeping our students on track by transitioning to virtual formats like we’d been doing it all our lives.  Faculty stepped up to the plate and students followed suit – both groups determined not to disappoint one another. The semester’s end brought a temporary sigh of relief, but then it was on to summer plans and a fall reopening.

While the education community has always known that diplomas and degrees offer the most reliable path to improved futures, others are now taking note.  The world has been educated in more ways than one over the past six months, and there has been an influx of inquiry and interest in higher education. 

My belief is that higher education will always be the greatest of equalizers in the perfect world where every life matters.  It will always be the most important gateway to opportunity and career success.  It is something that protects us when everything changes and all else fails.  A college degree is forever.  It can’t be taken away by heartbreak, a disappointing job, passing years or even a pandemic.

In less than two weeks, I look forward to greeting the students who share my beliefs and have chosen to prepare themselves for a brighter future.  A future that is unknown, but improved because their degrees will travel with them forevermore as a permanent reflection of commitment and determination.

The best place to be during a pandemic, or any other time for that matter, is where all are valued, ideas are discussed, options are available, and the future is bright.  One of those places is Murray State College.  Everything may have changed, but our belief that higher education will improve the world for us all remains steadfast.  We are resilient and ready to embrace the new normal that will be fall 2020

Joy McDaniel is the president of Murray State College in Tishomingo.  She was Oklahoma’s first female community college president and is in her 35th year at Murray