Driving Change in Higher Education.

Why we fear change

By Thomas Berg

MSCSA Presidents’ Group Chair, 2013-2014

Transition is never easy. Anyone who says it’s easy probably has a lot of instability in their lives. Change can become easier to cope with given enough practice but for most of us it remains a scary unknown that we instinctually loathe.

Some transitions we can prepare for. Many of us are preparing for graduations, transfers to universities, or getting into the workforce. We leave this organization with the hope we will find our niche in another venue, one that may even better suit our talents and aspirations. Yet regardless of how well we have planned and envisioned that smooth crossover, we come to the end of the road, throw on the turn signal, and pause. Underneath all of the excitement of a new venture there is a fear of the unknown. 

This fear is magnified when the transition is unexpected. Now the planned, comfortable environment we have been accustomed to is shaken violently by forces out of our control or forces we totally could have controlled because hindsight bias tells us we should have known this could happen all along. 

At first, we cannot believe this is happening, then we are mad at the world, ourselves, people involved in the situation, small dogs, clouds, that stupid song on the radio that keeps playing…you get the point. We try to find another way to get back what was, finding any way to bend logic in order to correct this change. When we realize we can’t, we are sad beyond comprehension (whether we show it or not).

Does any of this sound familiar? Stay with me. This will all make sense soon.

What I have just described in the last paragraph is the Kubler-Ross model of the stages of grief. Our minds go through this pattern in times of loss, especially when we truly love what we are losing. The idea here is that transition is difficult not only because of the unknown ahead of us but because of what we are giving up in the process. Our experiences with death and loss precondition our minds to fear change because we subconsciously relate it back to those previous losses.

My last request as Presidents’ Group Chair is for you to be mindful of this in others and yourselves, as I will surely be mindful of this in myself. It has been an unbelievable honor to have served all of you and this time of change will be incredibly emotional for me and many others. I ask that regardless of the politics, regardless of the seemingly endless General Assembly election process, regardless of whether you got what you wanted or not…be there for each other.

Let those who are leaving remind the next generation that they are fully capable of not only taking the reins but riding far better than we ever did. Let those who will lead this organization next year be grateful to those veterans of student advocacy that paved the way. Let us all remember that, regardless of where we came from, regardless of where we go in this life, we are all one family under the banner of the Minnesota State College Student Association and family is what helps us roll with the changes.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this family in service to you and thank you for your service now and in the future.

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