Dweebs with Dreams
Today was the 16th annual Endowed Scholarship Lunch. It connects donors with students who have received these scholarships, along with their families. The best talks were from two students, who promised to send me their remarks so I could include them in this space later. Meanwhile I was also asked to give a talk and here’s what I said:
It’s extraordinarily exciting to hear from President Carroll that we awarded over 150 endowed scholarships this year. But we have nearly 2,000 undergraduates. So we need more help for more students. And what I would say to our donors here today is that we are in the wonderful position of being able to point to your generosity, to the difference you are making, so that new donors who aren’t here yet can be inspired by your good example. You make it possible for others to follow your lead, and so you make it possible for even more students’ dreams to come true. I want to thank you so much for your support and your trust in what we are trying to accomplish here at Dominican University. What are we trying to accomplish?
My faculty colleagues and I talk about this all the time, and we’ve been involved more recently in some really intensive and wonderful conversations. It’s still a work in progress, but here’s where I’d say we are right now. Many of these words come directly from various faculty colleagues who have been crucial participants in our discussions.
Dominican is a place where undergraduates grow as liberal learners whose skills, knowledge, abilities, and habits of mind are developed, applied, and integrated through a distinctly Dominican course of study characterized by breadth and depth of inquiry that prepares graduates to be ethically responsible global citizens.
We develop students’ foundational abilities essential for further learning: Communication (written, oral and visual), computer applications, critical thinking, cultural knowledge, information literacy, quantitative reasoning, reading, and research fundamentals.
We provide opportunities for intellectual conversations of genuine breadth, both within and beyond the university, as students engage in varied fields of study, recognize different ways of knowing and creating knowledge, and demonstrate an understanding of disciplinary concepts and approaches.
Especially through a chosen major field, students study in depth, and they develop a high level of knowledge within a field of study, as well as disciplinary research skills, which are brilliantly on display all over this building every year on the first Wednesday of April in our Exposition of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Investigations.
But foundations, breadth and depth are not enough. We want students to be integrative thinkers. Integrative learning is the practice of making connections among experiences, skills, and knowledge; transferring ideas and abilities across contexts within and beyond the curriculum; reflecting on one’s learning over time; developing increasingly complex frameworks for future learning and action; and sharing learning with others.
One example of integrative thinking is in our LAS Seminar program, where students explore and consider enduring questions, compose informed, well-reasoned responses to these questions, contribute their ideas for collective consideration, and reconsider their own ideas in light of the beliefs of others. Moving into the future, students will be practiced in the art of raising and answering questions that matter, questions like: What are the key influences on a person’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual development? How does “the self” interact with a community? What are the causes and effects of inequality among and within groups? What does it mean to live in a diverse community? What is the place of work in the life of the individual in society? What part does making a living play in making a life? What does it mean to be good, to lead a good life? How does one reconcile self-interest with a sense of social responsibility?
These studies in foundations, breadth, depth and integration are shaped by and conducted in dialogue with a distinctively Dominican ethos, which assumes the harmony of faith and reason in a universe marked by both intelligibility and mystery, is faithful to the gospel of justice and liberation, and engages the Catholic intellectual tradition, which recognizes the sacredness of all creation, the dignity of every person, and the common good. It understands that study is at once contemplative and communal; it unites reflection and dialogue as we collaborate in the search for truth. It enables students to become moral and spiritual stewards of self, community, and the wider creation.
In these ways we prepare students to be global citizens who are knowingly positioned in relationship to the world from within and across cultural, geographic, linguistic, physical, political, religious and socio-economic borders. Shaped by a deep understanding of this relational identity, Dominican students become global citizens through study, experience and reflection. They embrace globally responsible attitudes; they acquire critically interconnected knowledge and skills; and they act ethically to participate in the creation of a more just and humane world.
The cumulative effect of a Dominican education should be that students possess knowledge, character, and skills to take informed, ethical action in the world and to influence others for the good.
Students, it’s a big responsibility. You are among a very small percentage of Dominican students who receive endowed scholarships currently. You set the tone, you set the example, you show what’s possible and by doing all that, you can make it possible for others. So I want to thank you, and I want to challenge you. Keep working hard. Cultivate your curiosity. And don’t be afraid to be a dweeb.
It was mentioned that I write a blog featured on the Dominican website but so do a few of our current students. And I loved what fellow blogger Hannah Minks wrote just a couple of days ago. After recounting how she had just shared the podium with our Lund-Gill Chair and founder of the Interfaith Youth Core Eboo Patel at one of the Chicago Ideas Week events, Hannah went on to write this:
I am working on 193,801,984 things at the moment. I have a couple papers due Friday, a research paper to be worked on continuously for theology, another for philosophy, a few interfaith events to plan, a capstone paper to be thinking about—the life of a student is a busy one! You know what? I love it, though. We’re at a really exciting place in our lives. It is our job to learn as much as possible and to share it with our peers. Sometimes I get frustrated at how unpopular of a notion that seems. It’s so neat, though! Being a scholar is our first and foremost responsibility at this juncture and we have so many resources at our disposal, we have great faculty and staff to support us, it’s awesome. Call me a dweeb, but I feel this is a great time in life. You know what else? We pay so much for it; let’s milk the experience for all its worth, and there’s so much worth here! I hope people aren’t doing this just for a piece of paper; that would be such a sad affair.
Does every student share that sentiment? Perhaps not, but our job is to inspire them and to lead by example. So let’s recommit to doing that, to helping all of our students to get the most out of this precious four year window of opportunity that is college, where they get to find out what they love, what they’re good at, what the world needs from them, and figure out how to turn that dream into a vocation, and to turn that vocation into an action plan, so they can take those next steps they’re truly meant to take.
Like some of our recent grads.
- Like Fanny Martinez, who just started graduate work at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.
- Like Tim Lazicki, who just started medical school at Midwestern University.
- Like Grant Newman, who just started the painting program at the Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University.
- Like Thu Ha Pham, who just started the Pastoral Counseling program at Boston College.
- Like Rachael Restko, who just started the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at Belmont University in Nashville.
- Like Michelle Calvert, who just started Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Education Program after spending a year as a Dominican Volunteer in Atlanta.
- Like Kendall Moore, who just started medical school at Rosalind-Franklin University.
- Like Amanda Bohne, who just started the English PhD program at Notre Dame.
- Like Zach Maher, who just started a master’s program in security and intelligence studies at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
- Or like Annie Hussey, who is marketing and communications coordinator at Global Handmade Hope, a fair trade company in Park Ridge.
- Or like Zlatan Hodzic, who works at the Chicago Board of Trade.
- Or like Roslyn Anderson, who teaches third grade at St. Bernardine School in Forest Park.
- Or like Tracy Williams, who is a medical ambassador for the American Cancer Society.
- Or like Dr. Nicole Gentile. This Rosary alum of just a few years ago finished medical school and is now doing her residency at the Mayo Clinic.
Dweebs with dreams. They will make a difference. Who knows what our current endowed scholarship recipients will do? I can hardly wait to find out. But one thing I’m pretty sure of is this: They will carry with them the spirit of generosity they have experienced at Dominican, in large part through our wonderful donors. They will steep themselves in those habits of mind and heart that continue to make us all so proudly Dominican.