Your Turn — Let the celebrations begin

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Christmas is in the air. The holiday season is in full swing. For many of us, our calendars are filled with plans for merry get-togethers and other activities.

These holiday traditions are vital. They help focus our attention on the deeply felt meaning of the season. Festivities also help nourish and sustain relationships by strengthening our shared values. Through them we reconnect with our heritage, reinforce our sense of belonging, and reconnect with the understanding that we are working together for a greater purpose.

In addition, it’s simply fun! We all need to take a break from the routine of our daily schedules. Celebrations let us take our minds off the task at hand for a few moments and recharge so that we’re better prepared to move forward with renewed energy.

Unfortunately, during the past two years of COVID-inspired limitations, many of us had to step back from some of our usual traditions. The pandemic forced us to limit personal contact in ways that made getting together a challenge. At Southside Virginia Community College, we found it necessary to rely on innovative technology and creative strategies to stay connected.

One tactic involved digital video conferencing technology. New tools enabled us to participate in Town Hall meetings where we sang Happy Birthday, admired pictures of new babies, and shared moments of silence with grieving coworkers. Social media platforms enabled us to connect through announcements, videos, and group interactions. Even regular email offered opportunities to welcome new faculty and staff members, distribute newsletter updates, and honor the achievements of our co-workers and students.

Although efforts such as these enabled us to share some meaningful moments, it wasn’t enough. A computer interface lacks the face-to-face personal touch. As a result, the suspension of in-person events reinforced my belief in their importance.

For this reason, I am especially excited that SVCC will return to an in-person Holiday and Retirement Luncheon. A committee is working hard to plan a fun event for our faculty, staff and retirees. It will be hosted at our Daniel Campus in Keysville on Dec. 20, 2022.

The luncheon provides an opportunity for people who work in different departments and on different campuses an opportunity to get together and reconnect. For some, this will mean putting faces to new names, and for others it will bring a strengthening of personal bonds that have been built over years of camaraderie. The event gives us a chance to look back at where we’ve been and acknowledge the growth that has occurred. It also offers an opportunity to look ahead with reinvigorated motivation as we pursue the goals outlined in our new strategic plan, Aspire 2027: Pathways to Opportunities.

One of our most important traditions is recognizing employees for their years of service. We do this for all who have reached five-year milestones. A full list of all honorees would take more space than I have here, so let me mention three who will be recognized for 25 years of service to the college and our students. They are faculty members Mike Stinson and James Wilkerson and our Buildings and Grounds Superintendent, Eddie Bennett.

The festivities of the season remind me that there is so much to celebrate. I wish you happy holidays and an opportunity to celebrate in ways that bring you joy.

DR. QUENTIN R. JOHNSON is president of Southside Virginia Community College, which covers 10 counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@ southside.edu.