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President's Corner: September 2016

We're off and running.

Old Dominion recently started its 87th school year. It was difficult not to feel electrified by the jolt of excitement in the air as we welcomed 6,000 new students to the university.

A few moments in particular struck me as I walked around campus during the days before classes began. I saw parents bursting with pride at the combined Navy and Army ROTC Pass in Review, which culminates a weeklong program to prepare incoming students for the rigors of ROTC life.

I saw a beaming woman help her granddaughter move in. She will be the first in her family to attend college. Before they said their goodbyes, the grandmother left perhaps the most meaningful sendoff gift - a batch of homemade cookies.

I also was gratified to see another example of Old Dominion's tight sense of community: Plenty of faculty and staff members, as well as officials from Norfolk city government and our returning students, came out to help freshmen move in and orient themselves.

The new school year brings the promise of exciting changes at Old Dominion.

We have launched Mane Connect, deploying student success coaches to work one-on-one with incoming freshmen to help them meet their academic goals. We also added two living-learning communities - residential areas that bring together students with similar academic interests - with the themes of service learning and cybersecurity. Old Dominion now has 11 of these communities.

On the academic side, the university this year will begin a Ph.D. program in kinesiology and rehabilitation, a master's in maritime trade and supply chain management, and a diversity studies certificate.

Unfortunately, the start of the school year was clouded by the recent deaths of three members of our community:

Karen Polonko, a University Professor of sociology and criminal justice, was Old Dominion's first recipient of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award. She was devoted to "student engagement" long before that became a common phrase at the university.

Jordan Zimmerman, a criminal justice major, was killed in a car accident in July, the victim of an alleged drunk driver. He was a respected student leader and was eagerly planning to attend law school.

Naqib Khpulwak Ahmad, a former Fulbright Scholar who received his master's degree in international studies in 2012, was among the 16 casualties in the terrorist attack on the American University of Afghanistan in August. Naqib, who was a fellow at Stanford Law School after he graduated from Old Dominion, could have stayed in the United States, but he was determined to improve life in his native Afghanistan.

All three exemplify the values of Old Dominion. We remember their achievements and spirit as we move forward in the new school year.

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