09/28/2012 12:54 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2012

The Season of Hope in Higher Education

It is fall in the world of higher education. It's better than New Year's. Lives that have grown too small are bursting forth in rainbows of transformation. A new day is about to dawn for new students all over the country. It is magical.

We, the leaders in higher education, have to hold the magic and believe in it so hard that it has no choice but to be so.

Political parties continue the usual rounds of bad behavior and street fights (imagine Ram Das and Mother Teresa punching it out on TV, and you begin to feel that sinking gut thing that tells us our leaders are not leading, and they are holding no magic.)

The economy this, and the Muslim backlash that, the student loan red herring and the "Is higher ed worth it?" blah blah.

That is the backdrop against which we receive and hold the life dreams and professional visions of hundreds of thousands of new students who are taking the leap of faith against the media ballyhoo about higher education, and believe us -- believe in us. At Southwestern College the students arrive with the actual belief that our mission is real, that we can transform consciousness through education.

We do. But they have only our word that we can deliver on such a high-minded mission.

I am a leader. While there is room for caution, room for questions, there is no room for cynicism. Whether your school is secular or otherwise, we, the leaders, must be spirited. We must remember that dreams really can come true, that transformation (once considered a woo-woo notion, now mainstream) is real, that "becoming agents of change" is not a marketing line. If you don't believe in it anymore, you really should leave.

When we ask our students to become light figures in the world, and we do, we have to look them straight in the eye and believe that it can happen. There can be no doubt.

It's fall. The magic is beginning in junior colleges, colleges and universities all over America. The leaders in higher education must seize the center ring, the ring where hope still resides, and while so many of our purported leaders embarrass themselves on the sidelines, we must hold sacred space for new students, who still think there is a better world out there, and believe that it is achievable the old-fashioned way, through education.