EDITED BY JENNY COLLINS ’05
Often within moments of arriving at Northwestern, you can sense it in your spirit. You feel it in conversation. You experience it in actions.
Community can be hard to describe and it’s impossible to force. Sometimes it’s created with intentionality and other times it just emerges spontaneously. Here, in words, professors and students share some of their snapshots of what being “focused on community” looks like at Northwestern.
Connection in Unexpected Places
In the Department of English, we love to build community with our students. One event many of the writing students look forward to is the biennial trip to the Festival of Faith and Writing held at Calvin College. In April, my writing colleague, Amy McCann, and I became the ultimate soccer moms, navigating a 12-passenger van filled with eight students as we made our way to Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The conference is a great chance for English students to listen to lectures and readings by faith-based writers (and to get a few autographs!). But it’s also an opportunity to get to know our students in a more informal setting.
We ate lunches as a group, and one day’s discussion extended well past the lunch break and into the next session. A handful of the students and I stayed behind to keep the conversation going, immersed in an animated exchange about writing, life, and faith. We spent another hour talking, going deeper—one kidded that she had just attended the “Hougen session.” Afterwards, I knew a little more about their stories and what they cared about—and they got to see me in a little bit different light. Sometimes finding pockets of connection in unexpected places creates the best kind of community.
-JUDITH HOUGEN, MFA
Associate Professor of English
Building Common Connections
My favorite community-building event this year was the first annual UNW Carnival on March 20! The overall vision and heart for the carnival was to create an event that would be inviting to all members of the UNW community: students, faculty, staff, alumni and their respective families. We wanted it to be a big, free and fun-filled event where little kids, students and adults would all have a great time and get to experience life together. That’s basically what community is to me: experiencing life together.
We had a fantastic turnout—I was blown away with how God blessed the event with over 450 people throughout the day. There were students, faculty and alumni who assisted in a plethora of ways to make this event a success. It was such an encouragement to see everyone come together under the common connection of UNW.
-CHRISTINE SWANSON ’11
Student Activities Director of On-Campus Activities (2009–10) Coordinator for Student Activities (2010–11)
Celebrating Culture in Community
The Department of World Languages hosts an annual fall party where students and faculty come dressed in international attire and enjoy international food and music. Our language and culture enthusiasts play cultural games, and students and faculty are able to connect with one another and build relationships.
In December, we host a breakout chapel to sing international Christmas carols. Faculty and students from different departments come together to worship the Lord and praise the newborn King with carols in many different languages.
In January we gather for a winter party with pizza and scrumptious international desserts made by students and faculty, and feature foreign films and language board games. These annual events help to create a distinct identity and build community both within the department and on campus.
-FENG-LING MARGARET JOHNSON, Ph.D.
Professor of ESL Education/Chair, World Languages
Showing Love in the Little Things
Community comes so naturally with people here because our motives are to glorify our Lord and Creator first and foremost. My favorite thing about Northwestern has been the people and how genuine they are.
For example, somehow my professor found out it was my birthday and brought me a piece of cake in class—that doesn’t happen in just any class setting. Or last year when I was on crutches, you wouldn’t believe how many offers I got from people to drive me to class or even carry my books. That is being the hands and feet of Jesus in every aspect of your life by loving your neighbor. How could community not blossom?
Orientation Leader, Admissions Ambassador, Athletic Recruiter
Creating Community in a Major Way
The art and design faculty are very involved in the arts community and model what it means to be a professional artist by exhibiting in shows ourselves, attending shows, lectures and other events and by keeping active studio practices ourselves. We spend a great deal of time helping students hone and develop their ideas.
Over the past 10 years, we have sent over 15 students to graduate schools in some of the top art programs in the country, including Yale, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, CalArts, and Cranbrook. This success rate is largely due to the system of community critiques and expectation of community mentoring that we build into our program beginning freshman year.
Students learn early on to ask tough questions of themselves and of their peers so that they will build the confidence they will need to stand before a graduate admissions committee and defend their work. Those who have gone before have built the way for the ones that follow. They keep in touch, and they take the time to mentor each other in learning how to succeed. It is expected that they be responsible for themselves, but also share their success and their opportunities to help others.
-JOE SMITH, MFA
Chair, Department of Art & Graphic Design
Monthly Manly Movie Night
My wife and I host the “Monthly Manly Movie Night” with UNW communication professor Mark Seignious. We gather UNW students in our home for dinner and to view and discuss a significant film, such as Cinderella Man, The Magnificent Seven or The Man from Snowy River. Our discussion focuses on the traits of the characters as portrayed in the film and the extent to which such traits fit with the biblical worldview. There is also a group of UNW women students who have a similar gathering and we’ve also hosted this gathering once a year.
-DOUG HUFFMAN, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies