One of my favorite activities during the fall semester is meeting with each first-year housing section to begin the four-year process of getting to know our students. Pictured below are four first-year sections with their RAs. After we take a picture together on the steps of Kerrwood Hall, we move inside for an hour-long conversation in Hieronymus Lounge where I ask them their names, where they are from and a distinct fact we may not know about them. These conversations always combine humor and discovery.
These four groups include individuals who have lived around the world, speak multiple foreign languages, have incredible ambitions for their future and are already making a difference through their volunteer service. I often think of our students as people who combine smart and fun. They are incredibly clever and have a joyful outlook and approach to life.
Two of the RAs pictured in these pictures are Jake Allbaugh and Becky Chmura. Jake spent the past summer participating in the International Business Institute/Europe traveling to 13 different countries and studying the society, culture, economy and business activity of each one. Thanks to this incredible time of growth and discovery, Jake brings heightened insight and awareness to his enhanced role on campus.
Becky, also a remarkable individual, is completing her pre-law program as she prepares for law school. Through her internship in the district attorney’s office in Santa Barbara, she is discovering the various paths to a lifetime of significance and service through the legal profession.
Each student arrives at Westmont with hopes and dreams. During their time in college, they undergo one of the most significant experiences of growth and development in their lives. They make a transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Their sense of who they are, what they will do, and how they find meaning in life begins to solidify for the first time. Years ago, the great psychoanalyst Erik Erikson identified this period of life as a transition from identity vs. identity confusion to intimacy vs. isolation. He noted that during this period we develop a full sense of who we are and how we are wired in order to enter into intimacy and long-term relationships. During college, we begin to answer some of life’s greatest questions:
1. What is reality?
2. What is the good life?
3. Who is a really good person?
4. How do I become a really good person?
5. What should I do?
6. Will the way I spend my life provide meaning and significance?
7. How can I serve purposes that will outlive me?
College is about discovering and beginning to answer these questions, recognizing that ultimately, as Erikson demonstrated, we never finish this pursuit.
Over the next four years these four groups of first-year students, along with all our students, will undergo one of the most significant transformations they will ever experience. What a privilege to know them and be involved with each one of them as they begin that process.
Blessings, Gayle D. Beebe