This is a guest post written by Stephen Pasiciel, who is the Transitions Programs Director at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada. It is written in response to article in CBC News entitled, Is it time for frosh week to grow up?
Is it time for frosh week to grow up?
A response by Stephen J. Pasiciel
Trinity Western University (TWU) is like no other university in Canada in its approach and commitment: it exists so that the world may experience Christ’s truth, compassion, reconciliation, and hope; it is a university that is informed by the rich Christian understandings and traditions that frame the study of the various academic disciplines; and, it is a university that is committed to continually building on its educational vitality.
As I was preparing our 350 student leaders (TWU’s on-campus, undergraduate student population hovers right round 2000) and staff for last weekend’s Orientation (O-Week), I exhorted each one to focus on the necessity of each new student to feel connected, not only to the University but to one another. New students, I emphasized, need to feel like TWU is a place where they belong.
To create an environment that fosters this sense of belonging, there is a fine line between excitement and unbridled insanity.
In order not to blur this fine line, we focus on four points of emphasis – the purpose of O-Week:
To assist students in their academic and personal transition to TWU;
- To provide an extended orientation program that begins to help students discover their purpose, broaden their knowledge, reach consistency, deepen their skills, and collaborate with others in service;
- To cooperate with other areas on campus in helping students transition to TWU; and
- To introduce new students to the TWU culture and invite them to become a part of it.
I unpack each point of emphasis below.
God has created each person with unique talents, gifts, and passions that He seeks for them to discover, develop, and use for His glory. The foundational steps in understanding calling is discovering who God has created you to be. This begins with an honest appraisal of strengths and weaknesses. Self-discovery empowers students to impact society in profound ways as they discover God’s purpose for their lives and proceed to invest their strengths and address their weaknesses, without false modesty or overconfidence.
In our extremely complex world, bright and talented people often hold very different views on meaningful issues. Students must not only know why they believe what they believe, but also why others believe what they believe. Engaging the world to make a difference requires an understanding of the world. Students need a sense of history, an understanding of the realities of present economic and political climates, an imagination for the future, spiritual discernment, and wisdom born of prayer to give them a balanced and accurate view of the world in which they live. As student’s knowledge broadens, he/she gains a better understanding of the world and a clearer picture of how to initiate positive change.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to live a consistent and cohesive lifestyle. Does our behavior reflect our purpose and the extent of our knowledge? Does our lifestyle match what we believe? In the Christian community of TWU, we believe that sustainable personal and spiritual growth occurs only in the context of relationships that love, forgive, encourage, and admonish. Most importantly, we are called to be different and to stand in opposition to the secular culture. Our lives should reflect congruence between “being Christian” in the context of TWU and the secular context.
We are called to excellence in all walks of life. The deepening of professional and leadership skills enable students to excel in the marketplaces of the world and to engage society to facilitate transformational change. A high degree of competence in a chosen field of study, knowing and understanding the language and underlying principles of a professional endeavor, and developing excellent communication skills are integral to ensuring success. Students benefit from active participation in lively debate, thoughtful discussions, and hands-on learning environments in stimulating classrooms, laboratories, and field experience. Christ-centered faculty and staff teach, mentor, coach, and encourage students to develop sharp, critical thinking and analytical skills that empower them to take calculated risks that will identify them as leaders in their chosen professions.
Effective participation in communities requires that students learn to work well with a variety of people in a variety of contexts and to envision, initiate, and lead profound change whether at home, at church, in the marketplaces of the world, within the local community, or across the world. Godly Christian leaders in collaborative service meet specific needs of communities through conscientious, decisive, disciplined, persistent, and committed action. Equipped with an unshakable faith and God-given abilities – and empowered by a heavenly calling to transform the world for the glory of God – true Godly Christian leaders seek to give all they are for a cause much greater than themselves. At TWU, students are challenged to become just such leaders.
At TWU, if our O-Week activities do not reflect and begin to fulfill these purposes, we need to pause and re-evaluate their place in the schedule. Do we have fun? Absolutely! From live music to outdoor concerts, from daily recreation activities and day-trips to residence hall activities late into the night, O-Week is designed to be memorable. But, what we hope our new students remember is the connections that were made throughout the week that will last a lifetime.