A new year usually forces me to think in two directions – forward and backward. Thinking backward allows me to assess where I’ve been over the past 365 days – what has been accomplished and what has not. It also reminds me of the admonition of one of my favorite theologians: that we must forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.
This idea of straining forward acknowledges the fact that looking forward requires work. Anything we look forward to demands our preparation for the opportunity to be successful. Therein lies the strain. Athletes press their bodies and minds in agonizing manner to the maximum for what lies ahead – the win, the gold medal. Students sacrifice sleep, family, good times in order to prepare for what lies ahead – graduation, job or better job, life. Organizations, such as Johnston Community College, strain forward as they make arrangements for what lies ahead – the future unknowns of meeting the needs of customers and tightening operations to do more with less.
Straining forward is hard. Have you ever seen a runner strain forward to the finish line, often lunging across the tape in one last burst of excruciating thrust toward the prize? Not once has that individual looked back at the hurdles leaped, the track conditions or the awards already hanging in the trophy case. Looking back is simple and distracting. I think that is why the author referenced above emphasizes our looking to the future with the word “strain” and cautions us not to become arrested in the events of the past. There is not a thing we can do about the past. All of the accomplishments, accolades, victories, defeats serve as a platform only for propelling us forward. The past is past. There is no strain there. The future is before us with opportunity more than we can even imagine.
In the year ahead, JCC will be straining to move forward in many different ways, all of which will require the help of the community. The current master plan calls for major renovations across campus to include the Tart Building and Paul A. Johnston Auditorium, roads for new traffic patterns and campus entrances, heating and air conditioning systems, roof systems and technology infrastructure. New buildings will be required to acknowledge students’ expectations that JCC will support learning objectives and new program demands. Student life, engineering, health sciences, transport technology and advanced manufacturing technology are all making claims on current space, which cannot continue to accommodate 21st century expectations.
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In today’s dollars, Johnston Community College is projecting $182 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years in order to meet the higher education needs of its service region. The task of meeting those needs will never be accomplished by dwelling on what lies behind but only in straining forward to what lies ahead. Strain we must, and strain we will, because the future is worth the effort. And that’s all we can do about anything anyway.
David N. Johnson is president of Johnston Community College.