During the Parents Orientation sessions at Southern, the President and other university representatives rightly stressed the challenges that freshmen students face each year as many of them for the first time will be away from home, away from familiar settings and away from the comforts and security of family, siblings, parents and friends. The new academic experiences, requirements and challenges certainly add to these psycho-social and other challenges for these freshmen. While I believe being away at an Academy may have helped some students in this process, it is not the same as being at college. At the Academy they are still legal minors and they had less independence. For some freshmen, this new experience of separation and alienation will be more severe than for those who may be less spatially challenged and within an hour or two can easily drive home, return and re-visit their familiar settings.
This is one reason why Southern has designed and created these excellent support systems for all its students, especially freshmen. They are paired with a student mentor, they have access to and are provided with dorm-mates, for the most part they have room-mates, they can always reach out to faculty/staff and finally, professional counseling and support services are available to them as they transition to their new social, intellectual, physical, psychological and personal environment and development. When you add the rich variety of worship settings, the various opportunities for spiritual devotion, growth, service, and fellowship you realize that you have a remarkable and effective recipe for the holistic development of the freshman.
Some parents often complain, worry, are apprehensive and sometimes criticize their children/freshmen for the lack of effective contact with them, for not calling, emailing or texting frequently, and maybe for not being sufficiently dependent on them in that regard. Parents, let me submit my hypothesis: as our children leverage the holistic environment offered at Southern, they will successfully transition from our boys and girls into independent adulthood and this includes maintaining strong family ties. We send them to Southern and as Southern succeeds in its mission the freshmen will need us less and less as they develop holistically. Sometimes that development pains our hearts. But remember, that’s why we sent them to Southern. This is the Southern Paradox.