Photo of the UW-Green Bay Phoenix sculpture with students standing in front making a hand phoenix by interlocking their hands together with the words, "Phoenix Finish Strong by Vince Lowery."

Video: Phoenix Finish Strong by Vince Lowery

UW-Green Bay’s Vince Lowery, director of Student Success and Engagement, inspires students to put their best foot forward as they race to the finish of the semester. Lowery shares a personal story about a cross-country race that taught him the lesson of finishing strong. “When (you’re) in doubt, when (you’re) uncertain… reach out for help, ask for help…reach out to me. As a Phoenix family we will finish strong. Together.”

Video Transcript of Phoenix Finish Strong by Vince Lowery:

This time of year I’m reminded of a story that I always told students when I was in the classroom now that I’m director of Student Success and Engagement. I have the opportunity to bring this story to a much wider audience.

This story is set a long time ago in the year 1994. A high school junior, running cross-country. We made our way to our regional tournament. I’m approaching the one-mile marker and I can hear this voice from the one-mile marker, it’s Coach Larry Smith. You see, I was usually second or third on the team and here I am at a regional event 99th out of a hundredth place. The one person behind me got injured and was walking and Coach Smith is just wondering you know what’s going on. So, he’s shouting are you hurt, are you injured, what’s up? And I’m like no I’m fine, I’m fine.

The reality was I had a terrible start to the race. Worse start ever for me but the thing I understood in that moment was that I could not change the start of the race. I could not go back and re-run the first mile. I couldn’t look back; I could only look ahead. I could only concentrate on the race in front of me left to run. Put one foot in front of the other. Do my best. Kept going. Kept pushing. Kept running hard. Slowly but surely, I moved up in the race.

Now as much as I wish this story ended with the one-shining moment with me crossing the finish line in first, it doesn’t. I finished 16th, which I was really pleased with. It was the best that I could do in that given race, given what happened in the first mile. But I also remember Coach Smith there in the last stretch, cheering me on, right, and here I am with you playing the role of Coach Smith, right, of cheering you on, of encouraging you to keep going.

Your semester is not over just as my race wasn’t over. You still have ground to cover and maybe you weren’t satisfied with how the semester started. Maybe there were some things you missed. Maybe there were some things you stumbled on. We can’t change that. We can’t control that. What you can control is what you put into these last few weeks. Papers, exams, whatever projects you might have coming up, that’s what you can control.

The other thing that you can control is accessing support. Whether that’s peers, faculty, The Learning Center, and advisor, Disability Services, Dean of Students office, MESA, The Pride Center, the places built on this institution to support you. The people committed to playing that role to Coach Larry Smith cheering you on all the way to the finish.

Finish strong. Your semester’s not over.  Your race is not over. And when in doubt, when uncertain, when not sure where to put the next foot, reach out for help, ask for help. Don’t know where to ask for help, reach out to me, I will help you find that place. I will be your Coach Larry Smith. I will cheer you on across that finish line. As a phoenix family, we will finish strong. Together!