As members of the Union College community, we aren’t exactly the most qualified individuals to speak to differences between our school and its secular counterparts.
Sure, we may be experts on Union College culture, but many of us have little exposure to public universities and their distinct atmospheres, especially considering most of our student body attended Adventist high schools in the past.
So when it comes to discussing the topic of “what makes Union so special,” often times I feel somewhat unfit to speak on the subject with authority. Therefore, the best perspectives I can offer are those of my close friends who have had exposure to both Union College and outside communities.
One such example is my girlfriend, who attends the University of Nebraska, Omaha. She has told me of entire days where she failed to speak even a single word to anyone at her school. Granted, she lives off campus, but still—an entire day?
By contrast, when she walks with me across our campus, it’s rare that we make it from Prescott to the Student Center without encountering one of my friends with whom I exchange at least a greeting. Some may say that this is due to nothing more than a small student body.
So then, what is it that makes us different? Is it that we have the name of the Seventh-day Adventist church on our signs? Is it that we are simply better and kinder human beings than our public university counterparts?
Without a doubt, Union’s spiritual atmosphere is exceptional and should be treasured. But even past our religious roots, I think it’s more than that. I think there’s something deeper, something that is directly responsible for making Union as special as it is.
It’s our mission statement.
I know. Boring, right? But everything we love about Union College can all be traced back to this solitary grouping of words.
“Inspired by faith in Jesus Christ and dedicated to a personal student-focused community, Union College empowers students for learning, service and leadership.”
Sure, many places have missions statements, many far more eloquently worded than ours. But what makes ours so special is that we all—every student, teacher and staff member—believe in it.
What good is an idea if its adherents don’t practice it? In a similar manner, our mission statement wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s printed on if we failed to live out the simple ethos.
So I suppose, in a way, it’s the people.
125 years ago, founders had a vision for the institution we attend today. Through the decades, individuals have dedicated their careers and livelihoods to this school’s continued success. And, through the entirety of its existence, the people who gave back in such indescribable ways so as to secure the promise of knowledge and education for future generations.
What do you and I have in common with each and every one of them? We all believe in the mission. At some point in our time here, maybe without realizing it, we have all contributed to the cultivation of a culture and environment that we can be proud to call home.
Naturally, the personality of that culture has varied, and even clashed, at times. But time and again, what brings us together at the end of the day is our shared belief in what Union is and what Union can be.
I think that’s what makes Union College so special.
Jonathan Deemer is a sophomore studying biomedical science.