By: Brendan Kelly
When I pull the door open and enter into the air-conditioned Gallagher Student Center, I look up and see the familiar large blue sign hanging from the atrium with the words: “An Education for a Better World, The Power of X.” I begin to look around and see students with smartphones in the palm of their hands looking down as they attempt to walk, text, check their email and not fall down the stairs at the same time. How many of us take the time to look up and read the banner boldly stating our Jesuit values? Is that banner an advertisement, or is it what we as Xavier students truly embody?
With the construction of Smith Hall, the Conaton Learning Commons, Fenwick Place, the Hoff Dining Commons and the current work on University Station we have become a much bigger campus. Is this bigger campus in correlation with our values as a Jesuit institution? The past two years I have lived and then worked as a Resident Assistant in Fenwick Place. I observed how the strong sense of community I felt in Brockman and other students had described in Husman and Kuhlman was lost in Fenwick. Big rooms and spacious hallways are nice. I thought we were here to meet and learn with the people inside the buildings; the people are more important than the buildings themselves.
What makes Xavier home is the people we love here; we cannot become complacent, thinking that we are advancing just because our campus is becoming physically larger. Recently, Xavier Nation dropped the ball in advancing our mission, “A Better Education for a Better World.” It was made public last Friday that the Nicaragua and Urban Academic Service Learning Semesters (ASLS) would be cancelled for this year. I wonder how many students have actually heard the news. These two programs, Nicaragua and Urban (in Overthe- Rhine) were the remaining two in a tradition of service learning semesters here at Xavier. The program at one time or another included trips to India, Nepal and Ghana. Now this year our university is left with none.
How is Xavier advancing “A Better Education for a Better World” if programs that send students to other communities and countries to learn and grow through cross-cultural dialogue don’t have enough participants? I participated in the Nicaragua service learning semester two years ago, when twentyplus students applied for the program. It was such an honor and a privilege for me to take part in the program and it pains me deeply that not enough students have shown interest in recent years.
My academic learning semester was awesome and it has enhanced my education here at Xavier since my return two years ago. For example, in a Macroeconomics course when my professor discussed the pros and cons of globalization, I saw the faces of my friends and host family in Nicaragua who struggle to make it in a working class barrio. I was able to offer a new perspective to my class, one that I wouldn’t have been able to provide before my semester spent in Nicaragua.
I could go on and on about all I’ve learned and any student interested feel free to come up and talk with me because you are a part of my community here at Xavier. As a student body, we cannot be tricked into thinking we have arrived because we now have a bigger campus and are an official member of the Big East basketball conference. There is still room for improvement.
The administration and faculty are here to guide us and help us on our journeys as we strive to become men and women for others. They serve as testaments of striving to live out the Jesuit values we see on banners throughout our campus, but in the end it is our responsibility to uphold these values.
The way we will truly become a better community is having programs and activities that stimulate us to challenge our worldview, programs such as ASLS, that advocate for us to engage in authentic dialogue with our fellow Xavier student body and the world around us.
Brendan Kelly is an ASLS Nicaragua 2012 alumnus majoring in International Studies with minors in Spanish and Peace Studies. He is a senior from Olney, Maryland.