Faculty: In Their Own Words - Dr. Cheryl Pauls
Dr. Cheryl Pauls is the serving president of CMU. Prior to her installment in 2012, she taught for 26 years in the areas of piano and music theory.
What do you love about your work here?
As much as I value the creativity of the arts, I have to admit, even to my musician friends, that I find it takes even more creativity to do administration. That's what I love about my current role; I love the range of people that I get to bring together, the ways I have to think forward when there's no template for how things should go. It's a wonderfully creative task for me!
What saying or motto inspires you?
Well, it's sort of a series of words that don't inherently belong together, but they fit together for me: Grace/Elegance, Laughter, Resilience, and Inventiveness. Those are truths or realities that I love and crave, and I try to use them to measure the quality of health in what we're doing here at CMU.
What are you reading/playing for enjoyment?
I'm practising a bit of a ritual: every night before I go to sleep, I play evening hymns. We don't often do evening hymns anymore since we don't often do evening church, but evening hymns are the most profound form of lullaby that I know. They express a trust in God that I can't begin to imagine. Their texts and musical shapes fill me, not only with rest, but joy and a sense of playfulness that comes from knowing God's creation itself is playful, and ongoing.
Where or how do students give you hope?
I see students rubbing off on each other in ways that really bring out the best in each one, and that gives me hope. They are willing to face what's hard, willing to be vulnerable, and in spite of all they might worry about, I find our students are incredibly kind. That persistence and courage builds a path for them, so that I see them finding their way to wisdom, to insight, to playfulness and so on. Any combination of those things feeds my hope immensely.
What do you most long for in your work right now?
In post-secondary education right now, as well as in almost everything else, there's deep concern about how to prepare ourselves for a world we can't imagine yet. Often those concerns are spoken with a sense of panic, and I feel that students tend to bear the brunt of that panic. I long for us to get the panic out of those (albeit, true) statements. Let's use those kinds of words and phrases much more responsibly—all of us, as a whole society. And then let's find a way forward through those words: Grace, Elegance, Laughter, Resilience, and Inventiveness. Let's nurture those things, especially in our students, rather than giving them this sense that, you know, 'you'd better hurry up and put your stakes down so you'll be able to keep a hold of this world and make your way, but then maybe not, because who knows what's coming'—I mean, this is not helpful messaging! The truth is, we live in the 'already and not yet' of the reign of God, where hope is possible, hope is available. It's a gift that one can choose to receive, a practise that one can choose to embody. So how do we collectively stop this tidal wave of calamity thinking, acknowledge the different paces of change around us, and learn to work well within them?