Intersection

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

In my years as a student at Providence College, I have found particular joy in the first few campus Sunday Masses of the academic year. I am one of many Friars for whom worship at St. Dominic Chapel has been an integral part of life at PC, and this has everything to do with the centrality of the sacraments and prayer to our lives as Christians. I am not alone in believing that St. Dominic’s is the hearth at the center of this campus we call home.

But at the dawn of my last undergraduate year, an annual experience largely unique to campus communities like our own reminded me so clearly of what really happens when we gather for Mass. Sunday night I attended the first 10:30 Mass of the semester, and I found comforting and valuable lessons in an unlikely fact: there were hiccups in the liturgy. A new year of congregants and liturgical ministers put their best effort into giving due reverence to God. Much like any first attempt in a new environment, we experienced bumps along the way. There was great timidity among new congregants when it came to chanting back the Kyrie. There was uncertainty as to which Eucharistic ministers would administer to what aisle. Occasionally the tempo would unduly pick up as the congregation nervously sang hymns. The joy in these hiccups does not come from imagining Fr. Cuddy’s chagrin at minor bumps in the road. It rather comes from a very real sense of shared humanity stirred up by those moments when we ‘don’t quite get it right.’

We believe that the Mass is the intersection of the human and the divine. Human error, however innocent, may drive stricter liturgists up a wall; I tend to think that, in moderation, it plays an important role of reminding us who we are and whom we gather to worship. We are clumsy. We are easily distracted. We are timid. But God is perfect. God is attentive. God is fully and unreservedly present in the Eucharist. Over time, congregations work together to correct human error and celebrate Mass in a way most reverent and conducive to the work of God. At St. Dominic Chapel, we have the exciting and humbling blessing of undergoing this process each year. It keeps us humble and our worship vitalized.

Sunday night, we very human Friars encountered Christ in the breaking of bread. No liturgical hiccup negates this. Fr. Cuddy and the liturgy and worship team led a beautiful and authentic celebration of the Mass, but they would be the first to acknowledge that their work is good only insofar as it is moved by God. There is no such thing as a ‘bad Mass,’ because what makes it Mass is the work and presence of God in and through those who celebrate. In our high-risk world, there is great solace in the fact that the core of the Christian life is something we lack the power to screw up. Through participation in it, we stand only to grow deeper in contemplation of God and his mysteries.

A Letter to Myself as a Freshman

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

Dear Freshman Self,

Wow, so you are about to move into college. Those boxes have been packed, the dorm inventory has been placed into bins, and your books have been ordered. You just said goodbye to your childhood best friends last night with many tears and “remember whens.” Your senior year of high school is over and it is time to move onto the great unknown; it is time to move into college. Today is the day that you climb into your mom’s SUV, listen to your favorite Taylor Swift album, and distract yourself on the car ride over by talking about things like which detergent brands to buy. You pull in front of your freshmen dorm, overwhelmed by all of the people standing there, ready to start their independent lives. The check-in takes place and you move awkwardly about in your new dorm, trying to assemble all of the stubborn furniture you bought for your tiny room. Then it is time to say goodbye as you pull your sunglasses over your swollen eyes, saying to your parents: “Okay, I guess this is it. You guys can go now. I love you. I’ll be fine.” Your mom has her sunglasses on too as she pulls away from the college gates and goes home to look at your empty room, wondering where all the time has gone. You then pull open your desk drawer in your new dorm and read a note from your father. It says that these years will be important in many ways; these years will be good years. That is hard to believe as you attempt to navigate the days, weeks, and months ahead as a person who is just trying to make it through this crazy college experience unscathed.

And, here I am, three years later, entering senior year of college. I am here to tell you that these next years will be wonderful if you just do some of the following things. Learn from my good decisions; learn from my bad decisions. Always remember that other people are struggling right now; you just can’t see it happening with them just as they can’t see it happening with you. Other people are calling their moms from the freshmen dorm stairwells too. And, yes, they are also crying even though it looks like they have it all together. The hunt for a good friend group is not a race; good things are always better to wait for than fleeting and convenient things. You may just not meet these friends for a while. In the meantime, work on being happy. Try to do one thing a day that makes you feel peace. Go for a run or go for a walk. Call your best friend. And, for the love of God, try to stay off of Facebook. Comparing your progress to your old high school peers will not help. I can promise you that.

Please try something scary the first week of school. Go to that club meeting. Ask the nice girl from math class to hang out. Do not hesitate so much. If you think he’s cute and nice, then talk to him. Apply for the competitive job. Do not put yourself in the position of becoming a senior and wishing that you had done certain things. Please do not pull out the Common App just yet…try to bloom where you are planted rather than uprooting yourself. All good things take time and college is no exception. Have confidence in yourself and your ability—hell, you were chosen to attend this college for a reason. Try to look at the bigger scheme of things: maybe you have nothing to do this Wednesday night but it is merely one night out of the probable 28,000 ones that you will experience throughout your lifetime. A night in will not kill you.

These years are going to fly by. You will end your freshmen year wondering how you have managed to change so much in one year, and, all of the sudden, it will be a warm afternoon in August of 2014 and you will be getting ready to become a senior. In the blink of an eye, you will be three years older, maybe three years wiser, and most likely three times more wonderful. And, strangely enough, the moments that will stay with you the most will not be the big, giant, monumental ones. They will be these small moments of bliss, unveiled slowly by the collegiate narrative that becomes your life. The approximate 1,400 days that you will spend as a college student will be spent doing the things that challenge you, scare you, and comfort you. You will do things that you never thought possible; like swim in the Mediterranean and get an A in Economics. There will be nights that you will never forget and moments that you will try to not to remember.

There will be times when you feel dumb. There will be moments where your patience is tested. There will be days when you wish you were home, and days at home wishing you were at college. There will be disagreements and dilemmas. There will be celebrations. And, yes, there will be a day when you wake up, suddenly a senior. And on this day you will feel many things; gratitude, happiness, and some anxiety.

But, you will remember the moment when you put on your sunglasses and told your parents, “You guys can go now. I love you. I’ll be fine.” And, then, three years later, you will realize that your initial prediction was correct.

You will be fine, just fine.

Love,

Your Senior Self

 

 

 

Marylander in New England: To-Do List

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

All it took was a simple reminder email from Southwest Airlines to peak my eagerness to return to Providence College after a full year abroad. A wave of excitement struck me as I read, “Your trip to Providence is just a few days away.” Senior year is upon me. While it is bittersweet to leave my home in Maryland after such a whirlwind of a summer, I am raring to make the most of the time between now and that fateful third weekend in May. One of my goals in going to college far from home has been to experience those things both major and minute that give Rhode Island and greater New England an identity distinct from my own beloved Old Line State. I have begun to list out just several of the important tasks towards this end that need doing before my class’ rendezvous with destiny on May 17:

1. See a Ballgame at Fenway Park
I have missed too many opportunities to visit the cathedral of Boston, and this fall is the time to right this wrong.
Bonus Points: See my Orioles play the Red Sox at Fenway
Bonus Point Multiplier: See the O’s win at Fenway

2. Complete the Awful Awful Challenge at Newport Creamery
Drink three, get your fourth free… what could possibly go wrong?

3. Pay a visit to this Cape everyone is always talking about
It has been alleged that there is some kind of enormous island filled with beautiful beaches and picturesque villages somewhere off the southeastern shore of Massachusetts. I’ll believe it when I see it.

4. See a Film at the Avon Theater on Thayer Street
I might even dress like a hipster for the full experience.

5. Eat Lobster Fresh from the Waters of New England
I may have to sneak some Old Bay to the table…
Bonus Points: The guy who sold me the lobster caught it himself earlier that day

6. ‘Go into the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I cannot learn what it has to teach, and not, when I come to die, discover that I have not lived’
… or at least camp out for a night or two.
Bonus Points: Spot a moose

7. Wear Matching “Four More Years of FDR” Pins with Dr. Grace on Election Day
I hope he wears his for midterms…

8. Max Out a Beer Club Card at The Abbey. Get a T-Shirt.
35-cent wing night may end up being a little pricier for me than in years past…

9. Win an Intramural Championship. Get a T-Shirt.
I’ve been training rigorously for inner-tube water polo for over a year now

10. Crash a Brown Party. Pretend to be an Ivy Leaguer.
I’m sure they will be enamored by tales of my research fellowship in Australia through which I conducted an in depth study of the effects of climate change on the marsupial population.

11. Run the Cox Half-Marathon
This goal may be a stretch, but it is something to aspire too. The necessary training regimen might not be compatible with items 2 and 8.

12. Complete a Senior Th… you know what, we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it

13. Actually Eat Clams at Clam Jam
So help me God I will arrive on time this year.

14. Persuade a Current High School Senior to Consider PC
Because this experience has been too wonderful not to share
All the Bonus Points: Aforementioned high school senior enrolls

Here’s to the year ahead. I am so thankful for the community we share it in.

No One Warns You About Your Twenties

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

One night, I sat down with a really good friend at a really cool bar. We started to discuss our lives, and the paths that were taken, as well as not taken. There were some predictions made about how the next decade would unfold. After all, we are only twenty-one, and the major topic of most conversations these days is: “So what the hell is going to happen to me? How is next week going to go? How are these next five years going to go?” And, we discovered together that the questions should no longer be about what circumstances and opportunities will unfold, but rather which ones we create and how we react to them. After all, there is no magic recipe for the survival of your twenties– probably because no one’s experience is identical. No one warns you about your twenties.

My teenage years were different. They really did have a purpose as many of them were dedicated to getting into college. And now at age twenty-one, that dream has been realized. I go to college, traveled for four months, and am involved in the extracurriculars that make me feel satisfied. And, yet, I still have little idea where my life is headed next Tuesday, let alone next January or next year. Yes, I have professional goals that I am working toward, but these goals are not guarantees. I cannot bank on them. I am finally at the point in my life where there is more than one logical next step, whether it is pursuing graduate school, working after graduation, or even traveling or taking some time off. There are no longer voices telling me what to do. My voice is the only one that remains.

This life as a twenty-something is not always easy. It can get really tempting to compare our situations to not only each other, but to generations past. Yes, our parents may have gotten married earlier and secured careers faster. But, here we are, this generation of twenty-somethings who, quite frankly, may not have our sh*t together like we think we should. The pressure to be someone or pursue something will always exist for us, but I believe this tension is heightened in the decade that has usually been seen as the “make it or break it” time in a person’s life. Many of us may think that if we do not act now, today, and make plans to secure the things that will eventually bring us happiness, that this happiness will somehow slip through our fingers into an abyss of regret where no second chances exist. Sometimes we may get so preoccupied with the weeks, months, and years ahead that we forget that life as a twenty-something is pretty cool today, right now, in this moment.

Being in your twenties means that you are old enough to know how to do responsible things, like paying bills and building resumes, but young enough to screw up those tasks every day. To this day, I still do not know how to parallel park, however, I got really good at staying out late on Saturday nights in London. But here is the beauty of it: your twenties are the time to experiment with mistakes. Sure, we all have commitments to honor. But these mistakes, late nights and subsequently early mornings, regrets, and embarrassment are all apart of the decade that forms our innermost selves.

In some ways, I feel like I face major changes in my life nearly every day as a twenty-one year old. Life is not always stable at this age, but it sure is fun. I do not have many answers or solutions to the problems my friends and I face except to hold on, buckle up, and get ready for the next turn of events, as there inevitably will be one. Things and people change every day. Our lives are not static and that is the beauty of being a twenty-something. Yes, sometimes things may suck more than usual but our capacity to roll with the punches is what keeps us hanging on. Someone once told me to only worry about the things that will matter in five years. The same advice can also be applied to relationships: only worry about the people who stick it out during the next five years as well.

So all of you twenty-somethings out there: expect to not know what you are doing all of the time. I do not believe your twenties are your “make it or break it” decade. They are your “sometimes make it and sometimes break it” decade. And, no, no one warns you about your twenties. But maybe this is the way it should be. After all, this decade is all about discovery, good and bad. Perhaps the person who would warn you about the things to come in your twenties would act as a spoiler of a movie. I don’t know about you, but surprises are some of the best parts of my life. Turn the corner, hold your breath, and wait for the surprise. It may be good; it may be bad. The only way to find out is to trust that the corner is worth turning. So, take this day, this week, this month, this year and turn every corner you find. Hell, you only get ten years to be in your twenties. Do not waste a single day.

No one warns you about your twenties. But who would want to ruin the conclusion to your story anyway?

After all, I heard there’s an ending no one would expect.

This Is Why We Write.

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

When people ask me what my courses involve in Oxford, I swiftly respond, “lots of writing.” This has been a writing intensive year for me. My academic program revolves around the preparation and presentation of essays. It is a rigorous though not overwhelming pace of writing. With a little bit of discipline, one can navigate the academic term so as to only endure the occasional all-nighter or intellectual train wreck. One can write in comfort and security. Writing becomes a manageable chore.

There is certainly merit in steady, productive writing habits; they are essential to tasks academic and otherwise. Still, when writing becomes a chore (however enriching), one can lose sense of the vitalizing and connective power of the written word. When we write merely to communicate our more superficial ideas, we can lose touch with the passions and values that underpin them. Such is the authorial malaise I found myself in until recently.

Sometimes it takes another’s words to remind me what my own stand on.

Last month, my friend and fellow Friarside writer Abby Hevert was confronted by every study-abroad student’s worst nightmare. She received a call while traveling in Germany; her grandfather was dying. She was powerless to make it home to say goodbye in time, but she embraced this helplessness with beautiful grace. When she finally made it home, she did what only felt natural: she wrote.

This is why we write. We verbalize what we believe must be shared. Because Abby shared her story, hundreds of readers (myself included) have gained a small share of that highly communicative grace. We write to share our stories. We write to share our beliefs and values. We write to lend a hand. We write to open dialogue. We write about tricky subjects that some try to brush under the rug. We write to sort through our frustrations. We write about what frightens us. We write about what inspires us as well as what disheartens. We write about our niche interests. We write about matters much bigger than ourselves.

We do not claim always to write beautifully, and sometimes we can write recklessly. It was only recently that a friend drew my attention to something cruel and untrue that I wrote in an angry moment last spring. Writing makes us vulnerable to all kinds of criticism, and sometimes criticism is precisely the bucket of cold water we need.

Through Friarside Chats, we write about those matters we care most about. We write for a community we love. Friarside writers have all shared in a healthy, enriching, and constructive experience. It is an experience well worth sharing. This is why we write. Please, write with us.

Dear Class of 2014: Let’s Show ‘Em What We Got

NickDefaultNick Wallace ’14

Dear Class of 2014:

With finals over and commencement week just beginning, I took advantage of the beautiful weather we received last Sunday by going for a long run through Providence. As the run progressed, however, it became less of a workout and more a time of reflection and introspection.

I ran past Piano Bar and reminisced about the Sexless Marriages, the infamous Wheel of Mystery, and the countless requests for “Defying Gravity” and “Let it Go” to be played. I ran past Whiskey Republic, and thought of the chaos that came with trying (and usually failing) to make the 10 o’clock BuzzBus. I ran on Exchange Terrance, and thought of cheering on some of my closest friends as they finished the Cox Half Marathon just a week earlier. I smiled as I ran past Fire and Ice, recalling each time my housemates and I stuffed our faces on College Night.

I got the chills as I saw a sign for the Dunkin Donuts Center, remembering storming the court against Villanova, Marshon’s 52 against Notre Dame, the arrival of Coach Cooley, the heroics of Bryce Cotton, and watching the Friars win a Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden. I finally made my way back up Douglas Avenue and past ol’ reliable Olds, the madness of Clubbies, and a place where everybody knows your name: Brads.

I finished my run at our beautiful outdoor track, but my trip down memory lane did not stop there. I turned off my music and began a slow (and long) walk back to my house on Huxley Avenue. I took in the beauty of Harkins and the grandeur of Ruane. I walked past the Quad and embraced all the memories that came along with it: living in Aquinas, playing Kan Jam instead of studying, and all of the Civ Screams. When I passed Ray, I tried to stay positive; as a growing boy, quantity often trumps quality. I made my way down the Guzman Hill and recalled living with the Guzman Goons freshman year. Finally, I made my way down to Lower Campus and took a long look at Suites: my favorite living experience here at PC.

As commencement quickly approaches, there seems to be a strong focus on the academic experiences we’ve all had here at Providence College. Our degrees will denote our areas of study. Some of us were awarded with academic awards earlier today. But what does it all really mean? I don’t mean to take anything away from academic achievement: I will wear my cords with pride. But my college experience was not defined by my GPA nor my field of study. What will stick with me forever are the relationships I formed with students, professors, administrators, faculty, and staff alike. Moreover, some of the most important lessons I learned over the past 4 years came outside of the classroom: being a member of Student Congress, doing service throughout the city of Providence, organizing around the issues of Academic Freedom and LGBT rights, acting as a fitness instructor, and last but not least, writing as a member of Friarside Chats. When people ask me about Providence College, these are the things I choose to speak about. These are the experiences that will last a lifetime.

But this piece isn’t supposed to serve as a final reflection or a diary entry to make you teary-eyed before we walk across that stage. Instead, I simply wish to make the point that while different colored cords may differentiate us, our academic experience is only one piece of our entire PC experience.

I’ll never forget what Dr. Hyde’s said to my PSC 102 class after returning our first exam. He proclaimed, “If you did well, don’t get a big head; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade. If you didn’t do well, don’t worry about it; this exam is only worth 15% of your final grade.”

In the hyper-competitive world we live in, we oftentimes get caught up comparing each other’s accolades: our GPA’s, our work experience, and our extra-curricular activities. Similarly, as we all get ready to go off into the “real world,” the same competitive mentality is usually applied. We envy those people with life direction, and seemingly look down on those who are still trying to figure it out.

 

So I call anybody reading this piece to take the advice of Professor Hyde.

Those of you with definite plans post-graduation: Remember all of the hard work it took to get to where you are. You have the necessary tools to be great and succeed; continue to use them. Embarking on this new journey should be exciting and fun. So it’s okay to be serious, but enjoy the ride as you more forward.

Those of you who are still trying to figure it out: There is a big difference between failing, and being a failure. If things don’t work out, if you don’t produce the results you want, that’s okay. But don’t confuse who you are with the results that you produce. Where you are in the world is always temporary. If you want a change, go make it happen.

And finally, to every member of the class of 2014: We will all fail in life at some point or another. But, in the words of Eric Thomas, if you are going to fail, fail forward. Learn from every mistake you make, every setback you endure, every obstacle that you don’t overcome, and every barrier that you cannot budge. Don’t quit. Don’t give up; fail forward.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through four years of college is the importance of faith. And despite my presence at a Catholic college, I am not talking about faith in God. Instead, I am talking about faith in you. In order to accomplish your goals, you need to have a vision. You need to foresee the future. You need to believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to. Nothing great in this world is ever accomplished without faith.

Up until this point, I’ve lived life with a chip on my shoulder. I wear bracelets that say “Prove People Wrong.” But I’ve learned that in this life, the only person worth proving anything to is yourself. So, Class of 2014, don’t try to prove anybody wrong; Prove Yourself Right. Do whatever you can, wherever you are, with whatever you have, and never be satisfied. Know that, wherever you are in life, you can enjoy more, and that you deserve more. Don’t ever settle. Continue to strive for greatness. Continue to be great.

The “real world” is waiting for us, 2014. Let’s show ‘em what we’ve got.

There Comes a Time

AbbyDefaultAbby Hevert, ’15

On Friday, I received an unusual message from my mother. She asked me to call her, if I could, and so I did. I got on the phone and it was my dad, telling me that my grandfather was dying. My grandfather was leaving the hospital and going back home after a terrifyingly short battle with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), which deteriorates the body, sometimes in a very fast way. They were in the car headed to see him in his final days, and I was in Munich, Germany, halfway across the world with limited ways to change flights home and cancel travel to Austria, Croatia, and Switzerland. Every time I used my hostel’s phone, I only heard people who spoke German. I pleaded, in English, with the simplest of vocabulary: “change flight, please!” It was fruitless. The internet stopped working. I was stuck. So I did the one thing I could think to do: I called my brother.

Mark, my brother, picked up and talked to me about my grandfather. He and I then started to talk about how incredible it was that I was in Germany, my grandfather’s home country. It seemed to the both of us that it was almost poetic that I was in the place where my grandfather started while he was at his end. I cried and explained to my brother how devastated that I was that I could not say goodbye to Grandpa. I screamed, got frustrated, and cried “Mark, get me home! Right now! Get me home!” He, being the beautiful person that he is, said: “Abby. This is the world telling you that there is nothing you can do right now. I need you to go get a shower, talk to your friends, vent, say some prayers, get a beer, and walk around Munich for Grandpa. Breathe it in and then breathe it out for him. You are exactly where you should be. Let go. The universe is in control right now.” So, I took all of that advice. I walked down to the Glockenspiel (one of the most famous landmarks in Germany), said around fifty Hail Mary’s, and purchased a beer at a sketchy kebab place. I went back into my room and felt more at peace than ever. No plans had been made. My grandfather was still dying. I was still thousands of miles away from my family. And, yet, the peace I felt was more overwhelming than my stress. I surrendered to the universe. It was time for my grandfather to go home to his eternal one and it was time for me to go home to my temporary one in Massachusetts, leaving my time abroad. I knew that the universe would find a way for me to get home and it did. I flew home on Monday without any regrets or hard feelings. It was my time to go and so I trusted that the universe was leading me in the right direction. I realized that everyone has a time to leave; including my grandfather. He was at peace with his departure and so I was at peace with mine.

I came home on Monday and went to PC on Tuesday. There, I saw so many seniors. They were all telling me about their upcoming plans after graduation, or lack thereof. They were mostly unsure, mostly terrified, and mostly sad to be leaving PC. Of course, they are all still incredible. The class of 2014 is still amazing in every respect. They always made me feel welcomed, important, respected, and comforted. The seniors at Providence College are ones for the history books. They challenged each other and their school. They make differences, live completely, and enjoy their experiences at PC fully. They live their time at PC wholeheartedly. And, of course, with this commitment to live completely and fully comes a “catch twenty-two,” of sorts. When we invest ourselves in something or someone, we are at risk of being hurt when that something or someone goes away. Because I had endowed myself to my family, I was saddened at the passing of my grandfather. And because the seniors of Providence College have invested themselves completely in their school, they will also be saddened when it is their day to depart. Seniors, take a lesson from my grandfather. When he was asked how he was feeling when he was leaving this earth, he smiled and said “terrific.” He was devoted in life, reaped the benefits, and left feeling complete. And, so, even though it is difficult to do, I ask the class of 2014 to perhaps smile during these last few weeks, think back on your time, and be thankful that you were invested. When you get that diploma, I hope you do not say: “But I did not have enough time!” I hope, instead, you smile and say, fondly, “terrific.”

Because, after all, the time comes for all of us to depart. But, always remember, that with departures come new arrivals. Exits lead to entrances. Last days lead to first days. Good things lead to great things. Great things lead to better things. So, 2014, although your time is nearing for your departure, remember to surrender to the universe. There comes a time for all of us to leave. But there also comes a time for all of us to start anew, become better, and embark on the next adventure. It is all a part of this universal plan, you see. It is beyond us so surrender to it. It will not lead you astray, I promise you. It assigns us all a time to leave so that we can start something better.

So, 2014: I ask you to yield to the universe. After all, there always comes a time.

Nobody’s Sidekick: Where are the Next Crusaders?

IMG_497604574877~2Matthew Henry Smith, ’16

My little brother, Benjamin, (the last Smith child) recently introduced me to Young Justice. Recently acquired by Netflix Streaming, this cartoon tells the story of DC’s Justice League elevating their assistants from simple sidekicks to Protégés.

You should know Superheroes are taken very seriously in my house. We pour over IMDB for updates on the newest X-Men movies. We debate Christology and LGBT themes in the Marvel Universe. But DC’s Young Justice recently took my thoughts in a different direction.

Young Justice isn’t a coalition of sidekicks. Instead, Kid-Flash, Robin and the gang are tomorrow’s heroes. The concept of Superheroes training the next generation of caped crusaders had me thinking about our own student leaders. Could it be that this Saturday morning cartoon is a serendipitous allegory to for the stories of our campus’ club executives, student writers, programmers, athletes, guides and representatives? You bet.

Even before Buzzfeed came around you were taking tests to tell you “what sort of person you are.” These tests are meant to be helpful, and direct your focus towards preexisting strengths you can hone. That said, they’ve very seriously perpetuated a damaging stereotype of leadership.

Sure, some folks were born with skills and personality traits that are objectively acute for leading. Consider the Type-A’s, the extroverts, those for whom leadership comes naturally. These people are the ones among us who are most sought after to lead.

That said, it is dangerous to think that the only people who can lead were born to do so. Leadership is not always extroversion. Sometimes it’s diligence. But always it’s selfless dedication to a cause that often predates and hopefully outlives the leader.

One of the dangers of narrowing the definition of leadership is that, eventually, we come to expect that only these sorts of people will lead us. And because there are more executive positions than there are Type-A’s, leadership monopolies form like soft student oligarchies. It’s never malicious and isn’t always harmful. But what happens when students who are considering getting more involved see the same faces at the top of every chain of student command? If I weren’t a “Type-A” kind of guy, I might be intimidated to get involved when student leadership is dominated by a similar few.

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve come up with a check-in list for the binary that has formed. Here’s the breakdown for those who weren’t the first to jump on the involvement train:

  1. There’s always time, but not as much as there was yesterday.
  2. Your ideas are important.
  3. There isn’t a perfect formula for leadership. Find someone who inspires you, but lead with your own qualities.
  4. You can lead from unelected/appointed positions.

And here’s the breakdown for the Type-A’s:

  1. Seek opportunities to empower others to lead.
  2. You don’t need to lead every time you are asked to.
  3. Allow for people to try, to fail, to try again, and to prove you wrong.
  4. You can still lead from unelected/appointed positions.

Causes and clubs shouldn’t rise and fall on the backs of singular members. The best leaders empower all connected in the cause to rise to the challenges of these responsibilities. Especially when it comes to campus leadership, we should always remember that less than four years from any point in our collegiate journeys we won’t be part of the picture.

In short we are doing very well. Our clubs are strong and our student leadership is sincere. This is simply a reminder to always seek out who is coming next – especially as some Friars approach commencement.

Consequently this presents the opportunity to announce that a new tab will be appearing soon for students to submit guest pieces to the writers of Friarside Chats. We’re looking for fresh new ideas and, of course, our own next generation of forward-thinking editorialists.

Anyway, you’ve got a whole summer coming your way to consider sharing your own load or helping out with someone else’s.

Keep at it, Super-Friars. And in the meantime, check out Young Justice… if only because it takes place in Rhode Island.

Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency: Miss America Comes to PC

defaultDavid Pinsonneault ‘ 14

Meet Miss America 2014.  Her name is Nina Davuluri. She came to campus this past Tuesday night to share her story and what she hopes to accomplish during her one-year tour. Nina grew up in a small, conservative town in Oklahoma.  There, she dealt with many common stereotypes about her stemming from her Indian heritage.  People around her often wondered if she had an arranged marriage lined up or if she worshiped cows. At a very young age, she was confronted by labels that were often not malicious but simply ignorant of her culture.  She eventually moved to Michigan and began to compete in pageants.

Miss America is a non-profit organization that has four pillars: style, service, scholarship and success.  Nina sees her service, as a business woman, to be one of the most important pillars.  The Miss America Organization has also given out over forty-five million dollars in scholarship money, ninety-two thousand of which has gone to Nina.  When it came time for college, Nina took a break from competition and studied at Michigan State before transferring to the University of Michigan after one year.  While at the University of Michigan, she was exposed to an Indian community that she identified with for the first time. She immersed herself in “Brown Town,” a group a students who shared similar struggles in everyday life.  Nina shared a story, however, that reflected on how some of the different college organizations did not always hang out with one another.  A friend called her to ask what she was doing on a particular night and she responded that she was hanging out with “Brown Town.”  She did not invite the other student to join or ask to meet up later.  The other student confronted her about this the following day and Nina was glad she did.  It is important to be inclusive to all people.  This is what she says drove her to introduce a cultural day for student organizations where they could engage in different communities.  It was Nina’s hope to engage students through their senses.  She wanted them to see, touch, and feel as others would from different cultures.  This is something that drove her to get back into Miss America competitions after college.

In order to compete in the Miss America competition, one must first win at the local and state levels. After college Nina was living in New York and won Miss Syracuse.  She then won Miss New York before winning the title of Miss America.  The odds were not in her favor to do this, as the previous Miss America winner was also from New York. Before entering competition she had to ask herself two questions: Why do you want to win and what change can you make?  Nina honestly believed that in three to five years, Miss America would have to be someone with a diverse background in order to represent an image of what young America is today.  For this reason, she set her platform as celebrating diversity through cultural competency, something she had seemingly been working on her entire life.  Nina’s talent in the competitions was Bollywood, an Indian dance she shared from her culture.  She graduated with a B.S. in Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science, and will now use her platform to understand patients’ background and beliefs to give them the best healthcare possible.  Nina hopes to attend medical school after her one year tour as Miss America.

Nina has faced criticisms as Miss America.  She has been called a “terrorist” and told that she “does not look American enough” for the title.  Nina, however, has taken this in stride.  She knows her job right now is to be Miss America and not Miss India.  She presents herself as an academic type, able to relate to people of all backgrounds; people should know better than to be intolerable.  The truth is that for every negative comment she hears, she receives much more encouragement and support.  She says that this reality is reflective of the demographics of America.  It is not easy to change the way people think.  Nina believes racism is taught.

Gender roles have also come up during Nina’s time as Miss America.  She has, at times, felt objectified.  She knows that when she walks into a room all eyes are on her, especially from men.  She uses this as an advantage and presents herself as an academic and uses her voice.  She has had meetings with people who are considered ‘high-up’ who have joked with her asking her if she can cook.  Nina says that you have to welcome all questions openly as a way to respond to any ignorance you may face.

This is why Nina is truly making big changes as Miss America 2014.  She has changed the idea of what beautiful is.  Miss America no longer has blond hair and blue eyes.  Nina explained that lighter skin is considered more beautiful in India, but in America tan is often seen as beautiful.  Beauty is subjective.  Anyone reading this should simply have confidence in themselves.  Have a support system around you that recognizes you for who you are on the inside and how you care for others around you.  Miss America no longer looks like Barbie. Miss America now looks like Nina Davuluri.  She succeeded despite her race and socioeconomic background, and encourages others that they can do the same no matter what career path they choose.

This is what Nina hopes to accomplish as Miss America.  She hopes to help others celebrate diversity through cultural competency and by sharing a little bit of herself with others.  She allows us to learn more about her culture, and more about the world. This is a new perspective that Miss America can bring to us in 2014.

miss america

Weathering the Storm of Realignment

mhagandefaultMichael Hagan ’15

We’re only a matter of hours away from the Friars’ first appearance in the Big East title game in twenty years. An automatic bid to NCAA tournament is on the line. The original Big East’s architect’s program seeks to upset the new Big East’s newest team to beat. The championship game is the culmination of a Big East season ripe with what we love most about college basketball. It is a high-energy game in which momentum is key and nothing can be taken for granted. It is the ultimate spectator sport in which the atmosphere of an arena both lends and steals momentum. Schools of every size can build, have built, and will build successful programs. A school’s size and resources matter far less than the commitment and ability of its athletes and coaches. Cinderella stories happen in college basketball, and no powerhouse program can purchase invulnerability.

Conference realignment based on football interests have threatened Providence College and schools like ours in recent years. Concerned by reforms in the NCAA football postseason and fixated on the almighty dollar, larger institutions able to support football programs suddenly decided that there was no room in the college athletics landscape for smaller institutions that could not. Football interests drove a wedge into Dave Gavitt’s basketball focused Big East; it was clear that the Big East was no conference to be in for teams hopeful for a berth in an impending playoff system.

College football’s ability to trump all other athletic interests is simply a reality. One can feel nostalgic for simpler days when conference titles and high profile bowl games were enough for everybody but Notre Dame (and the Fighting Irish could be appeased with an AP or Coaches’ trophy), but there is no going back nor real sense in complaining.

But under threat of being left out in the cold by realignment, we found out who our friends really are. In 1979 when the Big East was founded, intercollegiate friendship was not dictated by likeness in size, budget, or market. In the age of football hegemony, these have become many D1 schools’ only grounds for cooperation. But Providence College and the rest of the Catholic seven (plus honorary Catholic college, Butler University) have weathered the storm. It is a shame that a climate has developed in which the mid-sized private and large public schools that made up the old Big East cannot coexist in a conference, but interscholastic solidarity between those of us that UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, and the like decided they couldn’t be bothered with has brought an exciting new beginning out of what could have easily spiraled into catastrophe.

For tonight (and hopefully for the coming weeks), the Big East is all about basketball. But I am hopeful that the new Big East will offer opportunities for great athletic rivalry coupled with constructive interscholastic cohesion. We are a misfit conference out to prove the worth of mid-sized and small schools on the court, on the fields, and on our campuses. Competitive spirit between athletic rivals can be a powerful motivator and bond when harnessed properly. Following the example of the late Dave Gavitt, Providence College can be a leader in this new conference athletically and otherwise. Competitive rivalries between athletic programs and fruitful relationships conducive for mutual enrichment and collaboration between other campus leaders stand to be developed between these schools that share so much in mission and seek most faithfully to preserve the tradition of Big East basketball unadulterated by destructive football-centric interests. This is one more thing to celebrate as we cheer on the Friars in tonight’s Big East championship game. The novelty of this new conference is solidarity between schools and with tradition. Go Friars!

An ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Requiem for the Big East,” will air Sunday, March 16 at 9 PM. Read a Friar fan’s perspective on the documentary here.