In academia, we are in the business of telling great stories. We tell them about everything from how we conduct business and politics to who we are and what makes us tick. Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in listening to or reading about these important stories that we never hear much about the storyteller. What led them to care about their work? What led them to CGU?
I have to admit that since I became president, as much as I love to hear about—and brag to the world about!—all the brilliant academic stories we are telling at CGU, I enjoy nothing more than meeting with students and learning who they are, where they come from, and how they became passionate about their work. The stories I’ve heard from students the past few years, and what they have been through to get to graduate school, have blown me away.
The story we heard during our 2012 Commencement from honorary student speaker (now Dr.) Ana Viola Thorne was no exception. Ana is a woman with many diverse interests, degrees, and accomplishments; yet she once described her life as a “dream deferred.”
Over the course of her adult life she held many different jobs—secretarial, administrative, fundraising, event-planning, marketing, and public relations—but none of them satisfied her, none felt like her calling.
Her life changed in a big way, and she began to see the glimmer of what her perfect career might be, when she made the decision to complete her education. First came a bachelor’s degree in English in 2006, then a masters in humanities in 2008—both received with honors from Mount Saint Mary’s College. She also has an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University.
Just this May, she received her PhD in cultural studies with a focus on media and Africana studies from CGU. Her grandchildren were there to listen to her wonderful speech and see her receive her doctorate. On that day, Ana’s dream was deferred no longer, and we all look forward to seeing what she does next.
Stories like Ana’s are what get me going in the morning and make me so proud to be at CGU. They are also why I love the idea for this issue of the Flame, in which we celebrate some of our most special students.
Outside of this issue, we have many other students doing equally amazing things. For instance, we have two students living abroad on Fulbright Scholarships, in the past year we have seen several new student-run journals and conferences appear, and Shamini Dias and Shanna Livermore have shown exceptional leadership and caring with the Graduate Student Council, which I am very grateful for.
As I have been getting to know these students, I am also struck by how the diversity of stories I hear are matched by the diversity of the students who tell them. We have students coming here from every neighborhood of Los Angeles County and every continent on the globe. This shows we get it! And our diversity is only going to get stronger.
Every CGU student has a story that propels them, and each story in some way touches on the challenges that confront us as Californians, Americans, and as humans. As we commit ourselves to addressing these global challenges at CGU, I think if we pay a little more attention listening to the life stories of our students, it will go a long way toward strengthening our academic ones.
Deborah A. Freund
To see the video of Ana Viola Thorne speaking at the 2012 Commencement ceremony,