“How do we inspire students to take the power of together into a world that so desperately needs the healing power of community?”
Home is one of the most loaded words in our vocabulary. Homemade pies? Home sweet home? Home for the holidays? Hometown? For most of us, home conjures up feelings of refuge, comfort, safety and yes, even where everybody knows your name.
When I think of my first year at Graceland and my assigned house (go Cheville), I still have images of home. As a first-year student, almost everyone wonders: will anyone like me? Will I have friends? Can I be myself? Almost immediately I was surrounded by welcoming friends-to-be who transformed the four walls of concrete blocks into something that quickly became a home that has nurtured me for 50 years.
Home is more than a place. Graceland’s housing system automatically embeds new students into a network of engagements. It instills in you a sense of belonging. You belong simply because you are here. You are also supported in all the challenges and struggles that new (and old) students confront. No university can or should protect students from facing difficult problems that come with intellectual or spiritual growth, social relationships or any other challenges that life presents. What Graceland offers, however, is support while students wrestle with those issues. Friends saw me at my best and at my worst, and yet remained friends. Teachers looked beyond my current work to see potential I never knew was there. My Graceland home supported me in so many ways.
And with that support, I could struggle with bigger questions: Who am I? Where am I going? Am I OK? I was free to think beyond the expectations of my childhood. I could explore who I wanted to be. It was the caring community — the caring home — where I was free to explore new and often scary possibilities I had never imagined.
But we cannot stop there. How do we take what we learn from Graceland as home to make the power of together a reality in all aspects of student life — the classroom, the playing field, the theatre, the Commons? How do we inspire students to take the power of together into a world that so desperately needs the healing power of community? Our commitment is to send students into the world with big ideas and big plans, planting new homes of supporting communities wherever they go. May it always be so.
HARRY J. ASHENHURST, PhD, `70 Chair, Graceland University Board of Trustees
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