By Greg Jones
With a new school year, I am humbled as I reflect on the countless blessings across our campus and community. Belmont is home to nearly 9,000 students who represent every state and more than 30 countries. Our University is known worldwide for hosting two Presidential debates and appearing regularly on national television through music performances and NCAA competitions. The faculty is comprised of subject matter experts who are regularly trusted to speak on some of the most challenging issues of today–and that’s just information that a quick Google search can find.
Belmont’s vision is to be widely recognized as the leading Christ-centered university in the world. It has been incredible to see that vision manifest more and more over the years as our campus focuses on whole-person formation, enabling regions to thrive, employing integrative approaches to achieve better health and well-being for all, embracing hope and inclusive excellence and amplifying our storytelling efforts to inspire the world.
By setting such a lofty aim we have challenged ourselves to be faithful to God and our collective calling to serve those around us. After all, Christ calls us to boldly step out of the boat (Matt. 14:29), finding peace in the chaos and becoming champions for hope in the world. To reach the world, we recognize the importance of carefully stewarding those closest to us.
The start of a new school year brings new challenges for students, faculty and staff. The national pulse around higher education and Christian leadership feels more strained and belabored with each passing year. It’s hard to keep up as new technology, shifting generational trends and the unexpected future challenge us to stay relevant as we champion our Christ-centered mission.
These last few years have given me confidence that Christian higher educational institutions can be well-positioned for the future: if we’re bold. Boldness is found in the space where our faith meets our works, and work requires change.
Educational communities have often wrestled with choosing between tradition or innovation. But the best universities, businesses and organizations understand the value of what I like to call traditioned innovation.
Traditioned innovation leans into our history, boldly acknowledging that the best of innovation draws on the values of the past. Belmont has a remarkable past. Our campus has a rich history of cultivating pioneers who have impacted communities near and far.
Betty Wiseman is a matriarch for women’s basketball in the state of Tennessee who dedicated her life to providing women the opportunity to play the game at a collegiate level. As an alumna and full-time instructor at Belmont University in 1966, Wiseman started the first women’s basketball program in the South, outside of the AAU. On Belmont’s campus she is endearingly known as “Belmont Betty,” a nationally celebrated Title IX trailblazer who with incredible leadership dedicated most of her life to the flourishing of the institution.
Belmont Betty’s life proves that embracing change with boldness has the potential for fantastic outcomes. Her bold tenacity established the foundation that led our women’s basketball to win its first NCAA championship in 2021.
If we continue rejecting change, we will find our campuses stubbornly stuck in the past as enrollment numbers decline in the present–unable to keep afloat. Reframing our long-standing aversion to change will require a bold, new mindset if we plan to see our institutions succeeding in the future while educating and protecting new and diverse student bodies. It’s not an easy thing to do, but employing traditioned innovation will help us lead with boldness so we can achieve God-sized dreams.