A Spirit of Togetherness
Sure, it wasn’t a Waterford crystal glass filled with expensive champagne, but when I suddenly toasted a can of Diet Coke to a group of students last month at our annual Graduate Student Council (GSC) Welcome Back BBQ—the most well-attended one we’ve ever had—I did it with as much conviction as if I were making a toast at a wedding. “A toast to what?” you ask. To the amazing spirit of togetherness I saw that night everywhere I looked, and I that have seen developing across CGU.
Because of our size and commitment to working across disciplines, we were always a tight-knit community: working together, taking classes together, doing research together, and having deeper conversations together. But there is a new sense of unity in the air, and the recent all-university orientation and student BBQ announced this loudly.
Both were tremendous successes. And the turnout was amazing, with both venues—Garrison Theatre and Mudd Quad—packed with students, staff, and faculty. I was really struck by the buzz of enthusiasm and pride that I felt from the crowd and heard from students as I talked with them and watched them interact with each other. Psychology students introducing themselves to religion students, an education professor chatting up an aspiring economist, MBAs having drinks with MFAs—it was all so incredibly gratifying to be a part of and I know it means there are great things to come this year and beyond. So much credit for the success goes to the planning committees, Student Services, the GSC, and other campus groups for their tireless work in putting on two events worthy of the wonderful students that we welcomed and welcomed back.
Cultivating this spirit of togetherness is important for numerous reasons, though maybe none more than that, because we are we are such a small and diverse university, the opportunities for truly integrated, cutting-edge, and impactful research are uniquely potent here. It means sharing ideas across the disciplinary boundaries, learning from other disciplines and creating new ideas and new solutions that know no limits. This is a point the realignment is addressing and I think will greatly enhance our legacy of outstanding research and graduate education.
I was reminded of part of this amazing legacy the other night as I visited the Art Department’s exhibition In Their Own Words: Oral Histories of CGU Art, which celebrated the tremendous creative contributions of seven CGU alumni and faculty—Roland Reiss, Michael Brewster, Connie Zehr, Mowry Baden, Ted Kerzie, John Frame, and the late and much-beloved Karl Benjamin. Likewise, reading this issue’s interview with Religion Professor Patrick Mason (which I urge you to read on page XX), who is doing trail-blazing research on Mormonism, I see someone who is truly carrying forward this tradition of excellence today, along with every one of our amazing faculty members and students in dozens of different disciplines.
Yes, we are a diverse university, but if we can continue to cultivate this spirit of togetherness, we can be a model of hope and common understanding for not only other universities, but the world.
Here’s to all of us at Claremont Graduate University. Cheers!
Deborah A. Freund
To see the video of President Freund speaking at the 2012 orientation,