January 18, 2014

MISSION MATTERS: Building Bridges

Many Voices: A senior in the John Cook School of Business reflects on how the welcoming nature of SLU helps to build a community that can serve all.

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As a Jamaican, I join more than 1,000 international students who call Saint Louis University their home. The oft-quoted mission statement of the university — the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God — is not reserved to such a simple statement, but impacts the lives of us all. Our University welcomes students, faculty and staff from all different backgrounds, creating a kaleidoscope of beliefs, ethnicities, customs and identities. Though we come from varying backgrounds our shared mission unites us.

For me, a prominent example of how SLU demonstrates its mission of being welcoming and understanding towards others of different cultures and religious backgrounds is the recent construction of the Center for Global Citizenship. The CGC symbolizes that the bridges between cultural groups, religious groups and international groups will only grow stronger. Our willingness to stand up and say, You are welcome here. You are one of us ... expresses a deep desire among all of us to be global citizens ... to meet one another as equals, as brothers and sisters. I feel proud to tell my friends from other institutions that SLU has taken inclusion, diversity and dialogue to another level.

I would like to single out one professor who has gone the extra mile to make international students feel welcome and comfortable. Dr. Mike Shaner is a management professor in the business school, and I have recently taken two of his classes. It is safe to say that in both classes at least 50 percent of the students are international students. His level of understanding and willingness to help us on a one-to-one basis encourages me to strive for excellence and makes me feel welcome. Dr. Shaner is one of the many professors on campus who values students above academic bureaucracy.

Through my work with the Student Government Association as vice president for international affairs, the International Students Federation and the recently formed Caribbean and Latin American Student Association, I have met a lot of students from vastly different backgrounds — even a few Caribbean students. This shared international identity helps me to feel connected to SLU, but it's also the all-around welcoming spirit on campus and the shared mission that I find so encouraging.

For me, Saint Louis University will never be Jamaica. But because of the efforts of so many people, Saint Louis University can be home.

- Garvaundo Hamilton, S.J., junior in the John Cook School of Business

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