By Ethan Nichols, World News Editor
It is often said that Xavier lives within a “bubble,” tucked away from the neighborhoods and communities we reside in. A new role, funded by the Student Government Association (SGA) and supervised by Director of Government Relations Sean Rhiney, will work to address this divide.
The inaugural Community Student Ambassador Natalie Sendelbach, a senior early childhood education major, has a lot on her plate.
“The definition of my role, simply put, is to serve as a human ‘connector’ between XU and Norwood to create a more positive and collaborative community. The specific tasks and opportunities of this role allow for great creativity,” Sendelbach said.
Sendelbach wants to start small, though. She plans to focus on addressing student behavior and accountability, maintaining neighborhood relations, drawing students to local businesses, engaging Norwood residents and collaborating with other students.
The role is not a small one. Xavier sits at the corner of Avondale, Evanston and Norwood. There are numerous city councils, community organizations and other groups that Sendelbach will be interacting with in her new role.
“I meet with various community leaders, both in Norwood and on XU’s campus to discuss positive action. I listen to the ideas of students, professors, business owners, peers and neighbors to determine creative ways to bridge the gap between XU students and Norwood. After listening and meeting with various members of our community, I formulate plans to act upon those discussions” Sendelbach said.
The role is funded by the SGA and has the support of SGA President Annalese Cahill.
“The Community Ambassador Role is crucial to helping students understand their role in the surrounding communities of Evanston and Norwood. We have a unique opportunity to engage with different communities, small businesses, councils and neighbors because of our geography,” Cahill said.
“The community ambassador will help students understand this opportunity and take action to make positive relationships. We hope this will also help community members continue to reflect positively on our student body,” she continued.
Breaking the so-called “Xavier bubble” won’t be easy. It’s been a part of ongoing campus discussions for some time.
In the Spring of 2022, Tom Grandon, a Philosophy, Politics, and the Public and economics double major 2022 graduate, started a new initiative to, as he put it, “pop the bubble.”
Grandon, who was selected as an Arrupe leader, started a project aimed at promoting ways for Xavier students to get off campus and interact with the surrounding communities through supporting local businesses.
“Jesuit universities have a duty to engage with the communities they live alongside. There is no one better to fulfill that mission than Xavier students. Stronger relationships with Norwood, Evanston and other local communities will benefit residents and Xavier students alike,” Grandon said.
Ultimately, Sendelbach’s role is all about community. It may be in the title, but it’s much greater than that.
“Breaking the ‘Xavier Bubble’ is not something a person can do alone; it relies on collaborative practice from both the city and our university as a whole. There are hundreds of ways to defeat the “Xavier Bubble” that I humbly have no exact nor poignant solution to. However, I do know that it starts small; it starts with a group of people who have open eyes, open minds and open hearts,” Sendelbach said.