Community. We’ve all heard the word at least 235 billion times at Whitworth this year alone. It’s hammered into our brains at orientation and plastered on every promotional brochure, but many of us truly have little appreciation for the kind of community Whitworth has created. It is extremely easy to criticize the problems and imperfections of our school and often such comments can be fun to write and even say. I believe these criticisms, when expressed properly, are what mold and shape the social and academic frameworks that we experience every day.
I have only been a part of the Whitworth culture for a short time compared to most students, but my perception of life on campus is somewhat different than those who have known no other college atmosphere. I am a transfer student, with a year of schooling on a much different university campus, who is overwhelmingly grateful to wake up at Whitworth every single day (even if it is for pickle ball at 8 a.m.). I am one of many who share this attitude. It is easy to take the many blessings Whitworth offers for granted, especially when the little things become mundane and ordinary. Sodexo food is quickly frowned upon as repetitive and sub-par, Big 3 rules are looked at as hindrances, and homework is seen as irritating busywork. What many Whitworthians are unaware of, however, is that Whitworth’s values, standards and encouragement to broaden one’s horizons are not universal among colleges.
One of the problems often addressed at Whitworth is that of racial diversity, and while this issue is highly relevant at this school, the university also demonstrates a different type of diversity: the mingling of ideas. It is not every college that offers small classes where conversation is a crucial element of classroom learning. It is not every college that promotes small groups, religious or otherwise, where societal values are discussed and used as a tool for growth and encouragement, rather than argument. It is not every college that employs professors who are so devoted to their students’ education that they invite them into their homes to talk and study. Personally, I can say that for the first time in my entire academic career, I have been told that my interpretation of a literary work is valid, and even encouraged to defend my own viewpoints.
Whitworth also presents a phrase that can seem overused: “an education of the mind and heart.” This is a principle that sets Whitworth apart from other schools, and I consider myself privileged to be a part of a community where I have just as many meaningful discussions with my professors as I do with my friends. In fact, when I was told that studying the Bible in class was not only offered, but required, I was stunned. To live in a culture that does not reject religion as foolish and prude, and in fact, one that encourages a deep and individual faith life, is immensely beneficial. It creates an environment that challenges one’s personal beliefs, while providing the tools and the encouragement to grow in it.
Even the optimistic attitude of the people at Whitworth is something that seems universal of college students, but is actually very rare. To walk down a sidewalk and greet someone totally unknown with a smile and a nod is common at Whitworth, but shockingly rare at many other schools. Consider the RAs, who are set up as role models and spend a massive amount of their time encouraging interaction with hallmates through programs, Prime Times and hall-wide outings. These few individuals give their time, energy and enthusiasm simply to make the lives of their hallmates more enjoyable. This is not the case everywhere. While games at my previous university included “I chug, you chug, we chug” and Sex Jeopardy, Whitworth’s standards and values promote things like Humans vs. Zombies, Ultimate Frisbee, and Permission to Struggle. Even our cheers and chants contain messages that promote, as many Carlson Men can recite upon request, “strength, honor, integrity and courage.”
We are immensely blessed to be a part of a university that values relationships as much as education; where leaders are modeled, whether through professors or RAs, as selfless, genuine and caring. Granted it can be fun to crack jokes about the food, to complain about an unjust homework assignment, or to criticize the costly tuition, but when we examine the options the world presents us, we gain a different perspective.
I urge the staff, faculty and, most importantly, the students of Whitworth to really appreciate where you are and to understand that life is not the same at many other universities. Take pride, humble and grateful pride, in your ability to call yourself a Whitworthian.
By Ryan Stevens
Graphic By Eva Kiviranta