This column originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of The Bulletin.
I believe with others that a sense of belonging is likely embedded in the genetic code of our souls. In fact, research has shown that a sense of belonging is, indeed, one of the most important factors in student success of any teaching and learning practice at hand. Indeed, Mother Teresa went so far as to claim something even more expansive, that the key to world peace lies in remembering that “we belong to each other.”
If that’s true, and as a historic peace college, perhaps the greatest gift we can hope to give to all future graduates is the profound experience of belonging to each other, no matter our color, class, creed or culture. Together, we are Goshen College, past, present and future.
In the past year, we have also rightly witnessed claims of our common humanity as a response to the growing unrest, division and violence in our world. We have seen poignant expressions on social media, in candlelight vigils and on college campuses declaring shared pain and sorrow, of solidarity, unity and belonging.
Je suis Charlie! “I am Charlie Hebdo!” became a spirited mantra of defiant-belonging, which then became “Je suis Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Brown.” “Je suis police officers Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa” — which crescendoed into “We are Charleston, Baltimore, Orlando! We are Paris! We are Aleppo!”
It is that sense of solidarity, belonging, that we want to be our last word on who we are as humans and as members of the GC community: “We are the world. We are Goshen College!”
The expression, “We are Goshen College,” is one of the grandest of all expressions of belonging that can be claimed by every current GCer. But it also stretches back 122 years to our founders, and includes every student, graduate, parent of every graduate, alumnus, donor, faculty, staff member and administrator, and all of those countless GCers still to come. And it includes those who have been blessed by, loved by, served by GCers across time and space.
For me personally, “We are Goshen College” includes the 15 presidents who have come before me and the many presidents still to come. As I begin to prepare to depart from this role next June, I want to express how deeply honored and eternally grateful I have been to serve these 11 years as president of Goshen College and alongside such dedicated employees, a committed board of directors, generous donors, loyal alumni and supportive church and community leaders. No words adequately describe the immense blessing I have also received every single day from our creative, smart and faith-inspiring students.
“ Goshen College.” I am Goshen College. But more important, together, “We are Goshen College!”