An in-person voting session at the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement and lively Facebook feedback led to the selection of Courage and Roots as the provocative themes that will guide academic and co-curricular activities at Mary Baldwin University during the next two years. There were a record 22 submissions from faculty, staff, and students who all had thoughtful ideas about how to integrate the concepts across campus.

After collecting comments and votes, Spencer Center staff and faculty fellows discussed the merits of a handful of the top-rated potential themes, said Rhea Vance-Cheng ’09, associate director of Civic and Global Engagement. The group considered how well the ideas could be applied to various disciplines, how they could be illustrated visually, and how similar they were to previous themes, she explained. The college-wide theme was introduced in 2007–08 as a way to further unite and enrich the Mary Baldwin community. The inaugural subject was Voices, followed by Maps, Heart, Power, Wisdom, and the current topic, Place.

One of the strongest connections with the annual theme is the way each entering class identifies with that year’s word; the initial interpretation of the theme is typically seen in the tagline chosen for first-year orientation.

Courage, the theme for the next academic year, was proposed by alumna and longtime faculty member Sara Nair James ’69. James, professor of art history, was delighted that her suggestion was seen as timely and relevant.

“I see students, professors, families, and Mary Baldwin as an institution in uncharted waters and challenging times,” she said. “We need courage to meet those challenges and make a difference in this world. With courage, we have the potential to change the world for the better.”

Sophomore Lynnae Sauer hopes that others at Mary Baldwin will enjoy exploring Roots, her proposal, in 2014–15: “I believe that Mary Baldwin is a starting place for many people, and the root of their success. The college helps students grow and learn and it remains a source of knowledge and help, the way that roots sustain a tree no matter how tall it grows.”