Good evening! My name is Becca Sutich and I am a senior here at Saint Louis University. I can distinctly remember being in those seats at this dinner and listening to these speeches three summers ago. I was excited, nervous and ready to just start college. I love my family, but ever since I saw my older sister go off to college, I was so thrilled to have a new experience in a new city with new friends. In reality, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and what a wonderful place I was entering. Three years ago, I was a very different person from who I am today. I thought I had a great understanding of myself and the world around me, but I have since realized how much more I have to learn. I really have my experiences at SLU, particularly my experiences with and understanding of the Jesuit Mission, to thank for my development over the last three years.
When I began my college search process, I frequently said a variation of, "There is something special about Jesuit schools; they just have what I want". Specifically, I felt that SLU had this "special something" to the extreme. The people were so welcoming and inviting. The students were passionate and were people I wanted to be like. People were driven by something more, something I couldn't grasp onto, something seemingly intangible. I now know that this "special something" was the Jesuit Mission in action, something that is so rooted in every aspect of the university. For me, it took full immersion into Saint Louis University to understand what that was and what the meant.
As I said, I was a very different person when I began my first year at SLU. I liked to think of myself as a person who cared about others, but in reality I was a very focused person, sometimes too focused on myself. I liked to engage in the occasional volunteering opportunity, but those experiences generally had little effect on my life or on how I viewed the world. I also knew exactly what the next twenty or thirty years of my life were going to look like and was not too concerned with how this affected others.
Then school began and I felt something changing, a tension I was not used to. I was feeling very discontent with my studies and did not know how to deal with it. It was not an immediate realization, just a gradual, nagging dissatisfaction. On the other hand, I was experiencing great joy in the interactions with the people around me - the community I lived in and my engagement in service through the Micah Program. It was a confusing time to say the least. I knew I was interested in health and healthcare, but maybe what I was considering really wasn't where I was supposed to be headed and maybe the next twenty or thirty years of my life were not set in stone.
One day, I heard a presentation in one of my classes that presented ideas I had not really been exposed to-ideas of social justice and social change, specifically as it related to healthcare. The ideas of social determinants of health, poverty, accessibility, all of these things that had not really crossed my mind based on my experiences growing up. As it turned out, this person I was listening to was someone who was integral in the formation of the undergraduate public health program at SLU. Among other things, he had a passion for people and a passion for healthcare which combined to form a major that sounded just right for me.
Within a few months, I decided to change my major to Public Health, and this has really been where I have been challenged to gain a deeper understanding of others and have felt called to serve others. Inside the classroom, my experiences in Public Health have really challenged my worldview and have caused me to really reflect on why I held certain things to be true. I have learned new concepts and theories that I had not really considered or understood in the past. I was and still am frustrated by injustices I was being exposed to and sought to truly understand why things are the way they are.
What has been even more essential is that many of my main classes for my major have had an outside of the classroom component. This, coupled with my experiences through the Micah Program, I began engaging in service opportunities that exposed me to things beyond the "bubble" that I live in. I had a wonderful opportunity to work over the course of a year with a refugee population in south St. Louis City that gave me just a glimpse into the struggles of some of those who have come to the United States for a better life. I had the opportunity to serve high school students who were struggling with their studies and needed extra assistance in their academic pursuits in order to go to college. Out of these experiences, I really have been able to see how theories of my classes applied. I was able to see how so many different factors-socio-economic status, age, race, ethnicity-impact a person's health and get a glimpse into what poverty in the United States looks like.
Beyond this, and even more importantly, these experiences have inspired a passion for "the other" in me. I have gained a better understanding of what it really means to be an agent of change, something I am still learning and desire to work on becoming. Because of the knowledge I have gained inside of the classroom and all of the amazing experiences I have gained with others in the greater community, I feel truly called to work to promotion of social justice. I hope to dedicate my life to the other.
The Jesuit Mission calls us to do all for the service of faith and promotion of justice. Jesuits are often known for the integral role they play in education, as seen in the many Jesuit high schools and colleges throughout the country and around the world. However, a strong part of the Jesuit mission manifests itself in service to others. Service that is long-lasting, that works to solve problems at its core, and that transforms the lives of those who serve just as much as those who are served.
The Jesuit mission challenges each of us to consider others in our lives-whether that be those in the greater community or those who we interact with each day-and to look move beyond yourself and your concerns to those of others. It calls us to look at others with compassion and love. It calls us to really reflect upon the world around us and to consider what part we will play in the service to humanity. It calls us to consider how we can best serve God through service to others.
This is not an easy task or an easy challenge; I often find it difficult to live up to these ideals. But I, and many others at SLU, take the challenge that the Jesuit Mission presents very seriously. I try to step back and take the opportunity to reflect on how my life and my motivation can be better dedicated to others. And I have been blessed with an uplifting surrounding community reflecting on the same questions and can accompany me on my journey.
As I said, living the Jesuit Mission may not be simple or easy, but what is amazing, is it is something SLU students take very seriously. When I said SLU had a "special something" about it that drew me in, I was truly referring to the Mission without knowing it. The sense of community at Saint Louis University is so strong because students, faculty, staff, all members are constantly working to serve others right on this campus and beyond. The community is working to pursue truth, to build inclusivity, and to serve a higher purpose. This is the Jesuit Mission in action. This is something that makes SLU so special.
Students, over the next four years, you will have the opportunity to consider the Jesuit Mission and how it will manifest itself in your life. Lean on and learn from the community around you, you will be both inspired and challenged. When your time at SLU is wrapping up, even though it seems so far away, I hope you will be able to share how you have lived the Jesuit Mission and how you are able to serve others. As a senior, I am still learning and reflecting on how I can best live this mission everyday but I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity here at SLU to be transformed and challenged. Good luck, I can't wait to see how you will live out the mission and transform your world.