No one loves hearing an incredible Zag student experience story like I do. Except their parents. And our Gonzaga Magazine readers. OK, we all enjoy the tales and triumphs of students who spend four formative years at this institution, and then go out to “set the world on fire” in their many miraculous ways.
This magazine, over the years, has been full of remarkable examples of academic excellence, the Jesuit mission, social justice, faith formation and career successes among our students and alumni. However, the reality is that not all college stories have happy endings. Some are difficult to face – and even harder to share. And yet, this fall I found myself recounting a couple of these stories to our faculty and staff to emphasize just how important, and powerful, our time with these young people really is.
Some young people take longer to adjust to their newfound freedom and independence than others. Some don’t handle the transition well at all. Some arrive at campus with deep emotional wounds, challenges with mental health or addictions. They are vulnerable, challenged in their ability to cope with anxiety and stress.
Our calling is to be here for these young men and women, to pay close attention to and understand who our students are and the issues they face. This year, we’ve renewed our commitment to the education of our students not just academically but socially and emotionally and contextually. Later in this issue, you’ll find a story about the devastating occurrences of suicide that take place among college students – AND the steps Gonzaga is taking to help decrease that threat here in our community. It’s not a topic people enjoy reading about – during Christmastime no less – but we cannot shy away from the realities our students face. Instead, we must be educated, aware and ready to act. Our students, and their families, depend on us.
Just as we hope to help our students find the appropriate balance of studies and fun, service and learning, being in the present and looking to the future, we also celebrate the achievement of alumni who have found that sweet balance in their lives. School of Law graduates, as an example, are embracing new approaches to the practice of law that allow for greater professional development or meaningful family time during vital child-rearing years. We hope Gonzaga grads become trendsetters in this regard, even as we strive to help
our faculty and staff achieve the same.
The Hope and Love of Christ
If ever there were a time for hope and rest and balance, it is Christmastime. How blessed we are to have a faith that sustains us even in times of struggle or busyness. It is my prayer that every student who chooses Gonzaga will experience the love of Christ and find in Him the strength and inspiration to be who they are called to be. That is my prayer for you, our friends, as well.
Thayne M. McCulloh, D.Phil