Did You Know?

Female students talk on the outside patio of the Independence Campus

What makes Graceland great? After asking students, alumni, faculty and staff what they would choose as their Graceland top 10, we pooled their answers to bring you this list of inspiring attributes that make Graceland the place we are all proud to call home.

1. Graceland values learning, wholeness and community with the aim to change the world for the better.
That goal is being lived out every day on both campuses and through students’ efforts around the world. The School of Nursing has partnered with the Community Development Club and Graceland Enactus to build schools in Guatemala, and Enactus is making a difference closer to home as well. One of their projects this year focused on providing fresh foods to people in the Lamoni community through a partnership with the Lamoni Food Bank and Funshine Learning Center. Social justice is also abundant in the classroom: Assistant Professor of English Tim Robbins assigns “public scholarship” to students in his Poetry and Social Justice course; he, and personal counselor Dee White Eye, have brought awareness to Indigenous Peoples' Day; and Assistant Professor of Art Karen Gergely asks students in her Social Practice class to create an activism project about a topic for which they are passionate. Graceland organizations on the Lamoni campus decided it is important for all students to have access to these conversations. For the past couple of years, Student Life, Graceland Student Government (GSG), Black Student Union (BSU) and others have sponsored “campus climate conversations” in the form of town hall meetings intended to expose the Graceland and Lamoni communities to a variety of topics that challenge our comfort and broaden our exposure to other viewpoints and ideas. Graceland’s focus on peace and social justice really is impacting lives.

2. We pay it forward. And forward.. And forward…
Graceland is a place where people can practice and promote peace and social justice because it has been made that way by generations of Gracelanders. But more than just the development of a mindset, Graceland graduates understand the important role alumni played in their own Graceland experience and are more than willing to give back. The generosity of Graceland donors is impressive, but that’s not the only way Graceland alumni give of themselves. They come to Lamoni to speak at campus events — large and small. They sponsor internships and dedicate their time to the GU4U program as mentors to students and new graduates trying to make it in their field. Graceland alumni pay it forward to their alma mater, and the students reap the benefits. This example is hard wired into the very culture of Graceland, and even students find ways to pay it forward around campus and through their own acts of kindness. Each fall on the Lamoni campus, student-leaders and fall student-athletes help new students move into the residence halls for the first time through an enormous community effort. Move-in day has become a tradition of camaraderie. All these examples, and many more, provide tangible examples of The Power of Together.

3. We’re “essentially” changing the way people think about general education.
Our new Essential Education program asks the question, "what if 'general education' were more than just prerequisite courses?" One of the first of its kind, this curriculum seeks to connect knowledge with choices and action, and seeks to prepare students for citizenship and work through engaged and guided learning on real-world problems. Students can choose from five themes: equality, innovation, peace, sustainability and world citizenship. Each of the five themes has courses in its curriculum unique to that theme but share six student learning outcomes: communication, critical thinking, ethical thinking and action, global learning, knowledge of human cultures, and knowledge of physical and natural world. Equipped with these essential, highly adaptable skills, Graceland graduates will continue to be prepared for the rapidly changing 21st-century and will continue to change the world for the better.

4. We’ve got una cultura acogedora
That’s “a welcoming culture” in Spanish, and we’ve got it. Graceland welcomed its first student from outside the U.S. and Canada in 1908 (Freda Haas from Germany), and now the Lamoni campus is home to students representing 48 states and 30 countries (43 states and six countries are represented by the Independence campus). Bringing all those cultures and backgrounds to one small community means people from all over the world get to know people from all over the world, right here in the Midwest. And because we are such a small campus, students who come to Graceland from anywhere in the world can take part in a variety of activities — visual and performing arts, athletics, clubs and organizations, student leadership and more. The fusing of cultures and experiences creates a uniquely welcoming place. Una cultura acogedora is reflected even further in the Hispanic Studies program, led by Assistant Professor of Spanish Jonathan Montalvo. Professor Montalvo will be joined in his home of Puerto Rico this summer by a group of Graceland students who will take part in an experiential learning opportunity. Puerto Rico was first represented at Graceland by Ann Kelley of San Juan in 1957.

5. We know that experiential learning is some of the best learning, and we put our money where our mouth is.
Our nursing students on the Independence campus have been taking part in experiential learning practices in the form of clinicals for a long time, but the practice of experiential learning, or service learning, for other areas of study is newer — at least in its official form. Service learning is characterized by acts of service in which students experience real-life problem solving coupled with classroom reflection connected to defined learning objectives. Pat Hoffman has taken on the role of Service Learning Coordinator for the Lamoni campus and has been busy connecting experiences to students in the Lamoni community. Over the past three years, Graceland has consistently increased the number of courses that implement service learning, and during the 2017-18 school year there were 20 classes that took part in this high-impact practice. Students volunteered at an animal shelter, worked with the elderly writing their stories to share with loved ones, walked kids to school and worked with those children to reduce math fear. Lamoni now has a beautiful mural, and people in Guatemala have had access to health care, all because of service learning projects carried out by Graceland University students. These efforts are visible in Graceland’s student government and have even expanded to clubs and organizations.

6. We educate nurses faster.
The truth is, whether we’re talking about essential education, sustainability or activism, we have always been progressive. One way Graceland has been ahead of the curve is in our nursing program. Graceland’s School of Nursing was one of the first to offer nursing degrees virtually all online, providing bachelor of nursing degrees through distance learning in 1987. Today, the program can produce a nurse in just 18 months with a quick but rigorous online format. Many of the students who enroll in the program already have careers and families, and Graceland has figured out how to accommodate the needs of today’s students. The program has grown to one of the most recognized nursing programs in the country with an accredited Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

7. We’re Green, obviously — because blue and gold make green
While the essential education sustainability track is new, sustainability at Graceland is not. Mary Kay Kenworthy ’78 Speaks started Graceland’s recycle program when she worked here (1987-98). Since that time, such initiatives have made great strides in decreasing Graceland’s carbon footprint and educating the Graceland community on ways they can also make an impact. Sustainability Coordinator Jennifer Abraham-White ’08 oversees Graceland’s eco plot, which includes a hoop house with raised garden beds, an orchard, and other fruit and nut trees, and, through her efforts, it is expanding each year. The produce grown on Graceland’s eco plot helps to provide food to the local community and Graceland students through a partnership with Sodexo, Graceland’s food service. Sodexo’s involvement in Graceland’s sustainability efforts also extend to post-meal habits in the form of a Campus Kitchen grant that enables Graceland and Lamoni community members battling with food insecurity to gain access to food that would otherwise go to waste. Graceland Sustainability recycles more than just food — they are responsible for providing recycle bins around campus, creating a rain garden that prevents water runoff, and have even hosted end-of-year donation drives to avoid unwanted items ending up in the trash as students move out of their rooms for the summer.

8. Our faculty just. don’t. stop.
Of course, behind each Graceland student-athlete, student-leader, international student and service-learning experience are the caring and passionate faculty who not only participate in the culture of Graceland University — in many ways, they make the culture. But our faculty don’t stop at the classroom doors. They are out in the world providing research, presenting ideas, sharing knowledge and absorbing innovative thoughts. We have showcased many of them in this issue of Horizons, but there isn’t enough room in one publication to share them all.

9. We’re leading the way with leadership opportunities.
Graceland has always offered an abundance of ways for students to get involved. We have 20 varsity athletic teams, more than 40 clubs and organizations, and impressively, there are 270 student leadership opportunities on the Lamoni campus. Here are a few of the acronymns we use for areas of student leadership:

  • GSG Graceland Student Government
  • CHP Council of House Presidents
  • CHC Council of House Chaplains
  • SAAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
  • ASC Academic Student Council
  • BSU Black Student Union
  • SCO Student Communications Organization
  • ACM Association of Computing Machinery
  • GSEA Graceland Student Education Association
  • SAGE Sexual And Gender Equality club

With so many ways to gain leadership experience, it’s no wonder Graceland alumni are leading the way in changing the world.

10. We’re churchy — but we don’t push it.
Graceland is sponsored by the Community of Christ. It’s something most of us know, and it’s woven into the very fabric of the university’s foundation, including the programs those Christian ideals have influenced. Based on the Christian values of human dignity, mutual respect and social responsibility, Graceland welcomes persons of all faiths. Unlike many higher educational institutions, Graceland does not push religion. The Campus Ministries Office has a large footprint on the Lamoni campus — each house has a chaplain called to build community, share faith, and create justice and peace in their respective houses, in the residence halls and campus wide through creativity and collaboration. The Interfaith program on the Lamoni campus provides a place for people to gather, share ideas and share different perspectives on prominent issues in accordance with their religious beliefs and values.

Share YOUR Top 10

This is just a handful of the amazing attributes that make the Graceland experience so extraordinary, and all of it is connected.

None of it happens without the interwoven web of passionate individuals and the innovative community we have built together for more than 120 years. And because every Graceland experience is different, we are curious to know what makes your Graceland Top 10? Share your list with us on social media. #GracelandTop10 #WeAreGraceland #GracelandForever