by Elizabeth Reeves
It is a known fact that at times “Opinions” columns take a turn for the worse and become “Complaining” columns. I’m sure at any point in time you could find an Opinions columnist stating: “If you don’t have anything nice to say: come sit by me!” This week, however, is a bit different; I want to point out what’s going right. Whitworth University has an incredible community and involves students extremely well. In only one month of being a student at Whitworth, the displays of community are seen almost everywhere I turn and encompass Christ’s love with a finesse and warmth that only a Pirate could radiate.
Community at this institution means we are not numbers, we are not test scores, we aren’t even simplified to a name or a face. We are diverse students with spirits, talents and personalities who come together to serve a purpose larger than our individual selves.
At my public high school we were instilled with a fear of our future college professors as though they were an unrelatable species trying to intellectually confuse us with some form of academic trickery. It’s every man for himself and if one does not advocate for oneself, no one will. You are a number, a test score, faceless.
At Whitworth, this is the absolute furthest thing from the truth. This ideal of love and caring can be seen in multiple forms: from the communications department professors inviting students into their home for a pizza party to simply walking into the coffee shop and overhearing a student and professor discuss how a new freshman is adjusting to college life. During freshman orientation, professors even participated in the opening assembly skit, fostering a fun-loving environment showing that academia and enjoyment of each other go hand-in-hand.
At Whitworth, the sense of community is emphasized by professors who take an active role in their students’ lives. Take a look at Washington State University’s enrollment of 18,232 students at the Pullman cam- pus. At a school so large, one has to seek out a community of one’s own, such as a sorority or fraternity or athletic team, whereas with Whitworth’s 2,886 students, the day one steps on campus is the day one is a part of a community — so much more inclusive and so much more personal (numbers as of 2011 enrollment according to collegeboard. org).
Flash back to the sixth grade. Just you and your brown sack lunch (or if you were cool enough, Lizzie McGuire lunch box), standing in the lunch room looking about the room for who you were going to sit with at lunch. You walk up to a table, holding your breath, hoping not to face rejection. Beginning at a young age, we are taught to fear certain social interactions, the lunch room being one that holds a stressful connotation, but Pirates: fear no more. Because of our school’s incredible community you can bet your bottom dollar that you can sit with anyone, at any table, and know that you will be engaged in wonderful conversation and know that the conversation is be- ing had gladly.
Feeling welcome is yet another one of the perks to be had simply by being a Whitworthian. Community for Whitworth is just as much seen in the larger aspects of school as it is in the small things, what I like to call the Friendliness Factor. This friendliness re- veals itself in many ways, such as saying “hello” to passersby on the paths in the Loop or sitting next to someone new without hesitation. Even the previously dreaded “Who will I sit by at lunch?” is not a worry due to the friendliness of fellow students.
Providing opportunities for community is one of the large-scale ways Whitworth emphasizes community. This includes hall events such as Prime Times, hall dates, hall dinners, field trips and small groups. Even Intramurals foster a sense of community by being inclusive. You don’t have to be a super athlete to have super fun. By creating an environment where everyone is welcome and can be involved, a community is developed. Take chapel for instance. Chapel opportunities are always available but are not forced, leaving the option open and welcoming anyone at any time.
A word of advice: when opportunities arise, take advantage them! Intramurals, study groups, activities, concerts and outdoor rec excursions — if you do things you love, you will find people of like-mindedness and create a community of your own to contribute to the larger Pirate community. These ways of getting connected are some of the ways that Whitworth fosters community. Whit- worth has exposed me to some of the friendliest people I have met thus far, making it so easy to reciprocate. The community here becomes a chain reaction of kindness and friendliness and no one school could do it better.